On this day twenty-six years ago one of Sacramento's rising young stars in the world of commerce was shot out of the sky by a boyhood friend. I don't mean that his friend bested him in a business deal; I mean he, quite literally, murdered him. The two little boys had sat in the same Sunday school class many Sundays and had shared bits and pieces of their lives as they grew into men. One boy knew just what he wanted and he was on target to make his goal as a successful businessman. Kent worked hard in his father's business, where he and his sister had spent a lot of their childhood/adolescent years. Now that he was a man, one of the hats he wore was "Assistant Manager". There was no doubt who would be sitting in father's chair when he decided to retire. But, that was not enough for the young entrepreneur. Kent had also begun his own business! With all the office buildings in the State's capital city, there were never too many businesses cleaning them. The family business occupied his daylight hours and his office cleaning business exercised his management skills in the later hours. Even with his labor-intensive days and weeknights, at twenty-two, he still had energy for a dating relationship and was seriously involved in developing one that would last for a lifetime.
While Daniel shared some of Kent's charm and personality traits, his goals fell far short of a match with his friend. Daniel had chosen to start his working years with the military and had returned shortly before this event that would set the course for the rest of his life. While the taste of success had triggered young Kent to reach for the stars, drugs had claimed the troubled thoughts of his friend. Daniel just knew that he could get some money from his pal so he and his druggie friend headed for the family business where Kent was closing the doors for the evening. However, when Kent refused to give them money, a gun was pulled and Kent was shot multiple times.
When his sister phoned me at work with the news of this tragedy, I thought my heart would explode in my chest as it broke. I was so distraught and moved from grief to anger and back again as I busied myself moving boxes from one place to another until one storage room was completely empty and other rooms filled with the contents just shifted. I could not talk with anyone about what had happened; I couldn't think of anything else and could not verbalize the grief/anger. I just wanted God to "get them!" Yes, I was keenly aware that revenge belonged with the Lord's hand but I did not want one more minute to pass before His hand moved.
It would be five weeks before I was able to leave my mission station aboard a ship docked in Canada and share the grief with this family I loved so much. Kent was a brother to me, too! As I watched the video that had been taken at the funeral service, which included the viewing of Kent's body in the casket, I was reminded yet again of the blessing I had prayed over him on the occasion of his twenty-second birthday. It was such a joyful party with family and friends. Had that only been last July?! After thanking the Lord for the absolutely scrumptious spread of food laid before us, I asked the Lord to bless Kent with a new year that would bring Kent closer to the Lord than ever before. Well, one cannot get any closer than to stand in His Presence in Heaven, Amen. But, I certainly, did not have that in mind when I had prayed! We just never know when the number of days that the Lord has appointed for us to sojourn on this earth has been completed, as recorded in Psalm 139:16.
During this time with the family in Sacramento I had the experience of witnessing one of the pre-trial hearings for Daniel. One could not help noticing the development of his neck, arms, and upper body muscles as he entered the courtroom. Next to me Kent's sister whispered, "It is so weird. I see Daniel and my first impression is to say to him he looks really good and ask him if he has been working out." And that is just what it felt like, surreal to be there and know that this is one of the young men who murdered Kent. Such a thing was simply unimaginable. In the course of time, Daniel was convicted and given a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole.
Each and every year, as this day rolls around, I cannot help but recall how I longed for the Lord to exact His revenge on the murderers. But my thoughts never linger there. Instead, they linger on the words of Kent's father when we spoke of this most inexpressible sadness, "When I saw Kent lying there on the ground, I wondered why he was sleeping there. His face had such a peace to it that I just could not imagine what I was seeing was real. I could not take it in." Kent had been shot several times so one would have expected his face to have some expression other than peaceful sleep; that's for sure! This reminder always brings me back to the promise of God's Presence with his children… every moment of every day of every event in their lives. Until we are re-united with Kent on the other side of this life, we will never know what he had been thinking as his life drained from him or what he might have been seeing. Whatever it was, we can be sure he was not asking the Lord to "get them!" Revenge would not have brought that peaceful countenance to his last moment of life and I will not let it interfere with one moment of mine!
(Note: The issue of forgiving the murderers is not addressed here as the topic of this series was "revenge." It is equally clear in the bible that only when we forgive those who hurt us can we find peace ourselves.)