By Shannon Keenan
If I had to choose one word to sum up Mike Hollenbach, it would be messy. Mike was not afraid to get into the mud puddle with people. Relationships, of any kind, are hard. He knew that in order to love people the way Jesus called him to love people, sometimes he had to get a little messy.
I had the honor of meeting Mike when my ex-husband and I were dating. I knew from the first conversation that Mike and I would get along. What I didn’t realize at the time was just how much I would come to love this man, and how much of an impact he would have on my life, both spiritually and emotionally.
Mike taught me many things, but the one that stands out the most is what it means to be dead in my sin. It was 2006, and I was taking Living for the King the first time, not necessarily by choice. Mike thought it would be a good thing for my then-fiancé and me. We came up with every excuse in the book not to take it. Finally, Mike said, I really want you to take this course, so I’ll pay for one of you, you pay for the other. Ugh. Fine.
We were a few weeks into the course, and it was time for Mike to teach on justification. Mike was talking about being dead in our sin. He said we like to think that we die this pretty death, and Jesus comes and taps us on the head and brings us back to life. But no…
Tearfully, Mike explained that being dead in your sin is that you drown out in the middle of the deepest ocean, and your dead, lifeless body sinks to the ocean floor. Your body starts to decompose. There is no coming back.
THEN!!! Lifeguard Jesus sprints down the beach and dives into the water. He swims down into the depths to where your body lies. He picks you up, pulls you close, and swims with you back to the shore, where he breathes the breath of life back into you.
Without Jesus, we are nothing but fish food. Mike sought to live his life in light of the gift of salvation that he had been given. Mike loved people out of the overflow of love poured out for him at the cross. Mike loved much because he had been loved much.
So much of what I know about the Gospel, about how to love the Lord, and how to be loved BY the Lord, came from Mike. Knowing Mike irrevocably changed my life. I am an immensely better person for having had the privilege to know and love him.
Rest easy in the arms of your loving Savior, dear brother.