Kendrick Kemp. ST 103. Ms. Tracy Riggle Young. September 12, 2013

I am a pastor’s kid. My father and both of my grandfathers were Baptist preachers. My faith is inherited. It is my birthright. I was brought up believing what Reverend Chris Shelton of Broadway Presbyterian Church refers to as my “grandfather’s theology.” It is a theology that had been passed down from generation to generation, from Kemp to Kemp. It is simplistic. There were little, if any, opportunities to ask questions. But, I asked anyway, disregarding etiquette. I was trying to make sense of… of this God. 

When I was 17 my best friend died. He was buried on January 5th. The date is easy to remember because it is my birthday. His name was Michael, but we all called him Gator. Why? I don’t know. Gator stole. He stole because he did not have enough, and stealing made him feel good. One evening he was running from the police after allegedly stealing from a local grocery store. He came across a barge that had not yet completely frozen over in the winter months. He fell through the ice and drowned. Gator’s untimely and unnecessary death was the first time that my faith was challenged. It was the first time that the questions I was asking needed answers. 

I was 21 when I had my first stroke. It was a Sunday morning. Most of the family had left for church. My older brother and I were sleeping off a night of partying. After waking up I began to make my way downstairs for some breakfast when suddenly I could not feel my legs. I grabbed hold of the railing and called for my brother. He did not answer. I then continued down the stairs, gripping the railing. After a couple of steps I fell. The last thing I remember is my brother coming down the stairs. After two years of rehabilitation, I was walking on my own. I had regained my ability to speak. Then, I suffered a second stroke. Again, I had questions.

Like Jacob wrestled with God, I too have been wrestling. I wrestle with the shame that I may not be a prototypical pastor and that I would shame a congregation because of my disabilities. I wrestle with a society that values greed. So much so that a boy felt it necessary to steal to feel complete. Jacob walked away with a limp. A limp is just one result of my wrestling bout. However, I continue to wrestle. After all, it is my birthright.