Kyle and I met at a downtown café, back when downtown Waco was nothing more than a collection of boarded up buildings interrupted by the occasional business trying to revive an area decimated by a tornado that swept through town almost a half-century before. Before an eventual local hero nicknamed “RG3” even entered high school, and before the silos became “The Silos,” visited by tens of thousands of tourists from around the world, it was that tornado and a wild-eyed would be Messiah named David Koresh that would define Waco in the eyes of the world for many years. But neither of these, the tornado nor the would be Messiah, occupies the minds of people trying to make a life for themselves in Waco, and they were the farthest things from my mind on that day. Though I had some minimal experience with the city growing up, in 2000 Waco was a blank canvas I could paint on, and I it.
Kyle was pure energy, and I knew it from the moment I sat down at the table for lunch. Some people have mastered the art of social interaction by years of practice, so much so that they actually enjoy the company of people in a genuine, authentic way. They “faked it until they made it,” and no one is any the wiser. With Kyle, I sensed this was not the case. Instead, I could tell the smile on his face, always bordering on laughter, had been there since he was a young child and had rarely, if ever, dissipated.
There was no easing into the conversation. It seemed we became old friends within the first five minutes. The hour-long lunch we had planned turned into two and a half hours, and we mostly marveled at how our paths hadn’t crossed sooner. We grew up twelve miles from each other in small East Texas towns and ran in the same churchy circles for most of our lives, but had never met. We identified numerous mutual friends before Facebook existed to identify them for us. Our journeys were similar, though he was three years older.
Both of us grew up in Baptist churches, had a “conversion experience” at young ages, and were the golden boys of our youth groups. We attended college, he Baylor, me East Texas Baptist University, with an eye toward vocational ministry. We found out that day that we were also both at a crossroads on our journey of belief. The religious world we had been immersed in for all our lives was pushing us in the direction of, if not outright demanding, a sense of certainty about God. We were not rebelling against this, yet, but were feeling uneasy about it. We were at the foothills of deconstruction, and ready to hike our way up.
Kyle communicated to me that day that UBC was a place where I could be open about expressing my doubts. It was a place of exploration, freedom, and most of all authenticity. I didn’t have to be someone I wasn’t in order to find a home there. I needed no further convincing, and UBC became my church that day. Its people my people.
We said goodbye and agreed to hang out again the next week. The next day his daughter, Avery, was born.