For My Friend, Benjamin Keeney

 

Tomorrow (well, today, I guess - I'm going to regret being up this late in five hours), my friend Ben Keeney is getting married. 

I've known Ben - as far as I can remember - since Mars Hill opened up its first outside-of-Washington church plant in Albuquerque, New Mexico. A relatively random series of events brought me to attend what was then City On A Hill beneath the pastoral leadership of Dave Bruskas, and when Pastor Dave announced that we were going to transition into a new partnership with the Seattle-based church, I knew right away that I wanted in. 

My almost-wife - Brandi - and I were asked to start a community / home group specifically focused toward the artistic / musician community participating in (or who we hoped would participate in) Mars Hill Church at the time. Ours would become a group of creatives who would host concerts, art shows, whatever. 

And we would share the responsibility of leading this group with Ben Keeney. 

Some dude we'd vaguely known through a similar home-group experience up to this point in time, Ben was not the creative we thought we'd launch out with. But there we were, placed together in an unlikely grouping that has become a friendship I'd never have imagined all those years ago. 

Ben, Brandi and I hosted community groups together. We threw shows together. We went through pain that I wish could be undone together. We're getting through pain that we believe will be redeemed together. And out of all of it, I've come to call another friend one of my best. 

Eventually, Ben ended up living with Brandi and I when we bought our first home in the Spring of 2014. I hated his stupid, red chair that he moved into the living room because I wanted it to look minimalistic and modern, like Seattle, and it wasn't. Now, he lives in Seattle, and I hate him for that. 

Ben is pretty similar to my wife. I'm not quite sure how I didn't bash my head into the wall living with the both of them under one roof, but Ben gave me hope that there are other people like Brandi in the world, and maybe I didn't have quite as much to worry about. (You might not get that, but they will.)

Ben shares my love for the city of Seattle. He lived here for a while during a stint at a school of theology that we both participated in. I'm writing this from that Emerald City, and I'm honestly proud of him for making it back. He made a visit up here at some point during the Mars Hill collapse - I can't remember why. But he visited a small church plant adjacent to Cal Anderson up on the HIll, and came home talking too much about sci-fi movies, and what qualified as such. 

I guess that's pretty random to read. Church plants and sci-fi. Or maybe it's exactly what a lot of you think of church plants, but all that to say, he came home in love with the idea of the upstart ministry... and I think he came home in love with whoever he was arguing about sci-fi with. 

Or close to that, anyway. Close enough in love to actually listen to another person's opinion about what sci-fi might be. 

Ben has been a different person since he met Amy. There's joy in his life that I've never seen before. There's grace in his tone that I've never heard and there's a desire to love people - just people - blossoming brighter than I've ever seen it blossom. 

I've watched Ben through patience and impatience. Relationships and the lack thereof, and the struggle through it all. To see him as a man who is the living proof of the proverbial "man who finds a wife finds a good thing" is a delight, a warmth, a joy in my heart. My friend has found a better one than I could ever be to him, and she is a gift. She is a wonderful gift. 

Amy, thanks for bringing me coffee for my Snob Journey, even though it was on the same trip to take my friend 1,465 miles away from me (I know, I wrote a poem about it and made sure I had my numbers right).

Ben, thanks for teaching me things about life and love and Jesus that I’d never know if it weren’t for people who are completely different than I am.  

And thanks for being willing to submit to the same authority that we submitted to when we started the community group together, because neither of us probably had any idea what to do with the other, but here we are.

And thanks for getting married in Seattle, because I want to come here as often as I can. 

Thanks for every conversation about Re:Train, and Mars Hill, and the joys and the pains, and the laughter and the sorrow, and the anger and the compassion, and the hope for redemption. 

Thanks for yelling at my cat. 

Thanks for paying me money to live in my house. 

Thanks for leaving the water running for days. 

Thanks for taking me to Gasworks Park for the first time, and showing me my favorite city from that vantage point. You’re right - it’s one of the best views in the world.

And thanks for helping me love Brandi more, because you remind me that it’s okay that she’s different than I am, and that I don’t have the monopoly on grace, or what it looks like.

Thank you for being used of God to make me into a better man. I love you. It’s an enormous privilege to get to celebrate this new journey into new life with you. 

I'm going to say a lot of this tomorrow at your reception, and at first I was worried about spoiling that, if you read this beforehand. Then I thought about what Brandi says about weddings - how they're mostly for other people, or maybe the parents. I don't know if I agree with her, but if she is right, God knows your parents probably don't read my blog, so it'll all be news to them.

Intersteller is the best. 

Levi

 

(P.S. - this amazing picture of you is still hanging on our fridge.) 

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