What hardship taught me about people, relationships and my faith.

This is a 3 part series that encompasses my 3 biggest lessons after having 4 strokes and open heart surgery in 2010. The three P’s I will discuss are People, Purpose, and Perspective. This first post is related to People and the value of relationship. So I start with….what is relationship?


What do you think about in a hospital room when you are all alone? Many things, but one thought that kept running through my mind and something I keep reminding myself to NEVER take family for granted.

I don’t know that I ever really understood how much parents truly love their kids until I became a dad. In thinking back, I recall the many selfless acts of my parents. I remember one instance vividly. I had driven across the state by myself to a High School Rodeo. Settling in for the evening, I lit the pilot light in our family horse trailer. There was an explosion which seared the shower curtain completely — not to mention sending me right out the door. Apparently, Dad had forgotten to connect the propane line. By the grace of God, I was fine, but he was so worried that he drove up north in the middle of the night just to check on me.

I think the old cliche about “being harder on the ones we love most” has been true in my life.

Back in the day, my mom taught us Sunday School and I remember asking why she never called on me when I knew an answer to a question. She said she never wanted others to think she favored me over the other kids.

I am still learning how to communicate my feelings constructively so that I don’t lash out at those closest to me over such little things. At times, my three girls think I’m really hard on them. I only want for them, in this day and age, to be self-reliant, self-motivated, compassionate, forgiving, have common sense, and most of all, are LOVING. My wife and I have been trying to live into the ideal that more is “caught than taught,” but I’m certainly a work in progress myself.


I am fond of the Shakespeare quote, “A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”

The best man in my wedding and one of the greatest friends I could ask for is Travis Polzin. He always has been an unwavering fixture in my life and although we may go long periods between conversations, we pick up right where we left off. More importantly, when I need him most, he is there. Weeks after my heart surgery, he left his young family in Canada to come support us in Kansas City. No questions and no expectations — he just came to be with me.

In our Church, we frequently reference “stretcher bearers” in our lives. These are friends who are there when we need an extra “lift” to get through the tough times. The day I woke up from heart surgery and Justin VanOpdorp walked 30 Steps with me, I felt a peace just knowing friends were surrounding us. At the same time, when I was struggling to come out of anesthesia and the nurses weren’t sure I would come around, it was our Small Group friends who were surrounding Danielle and our young family.


The third element to relationship that I think about both personally and professionally is mentorship. Here is an article I read years ago that shaped my thinking in this regard:

Be A Barnabas — Be a friend and surround yourself with people you can both encourage and who encourage you. This is the group of friends we surround ourselves with. There is no doubt that we become like those whom we surround ourselves.

Pursue A Paul — Who can we learn from and look up to? These are people who provide us with wisdom and guidance. Over the years I have been fortunate to develop many of these relationships. Some of the men who have shaped both my career and my character include: Dan Strempke, Russ Weathers, Todd McLean, Dave Rock, and George Guastello to name a few.

Train A Timothy — Who are you mentoring? As my wife and I both approach the ripe young age of 40, we have started asking ourselves, “Who are we pouring into?” So many great people have guided us through the years and we now desire to do the same.

The act of mentorship has been so monumental to me. I have always looked to others to ask, “How can I be like that,” and, “What did those individuals do to get where they are?” I was very fortunate in the mentorship space. In my first couple years of college, key individuals came to me and to share their lessons and perspectives. They provided the opportunity for me to learn from them and to grow in the safety of another person’s watchful eye. When someone takes you under their wing and coaches you, it can change the outcome and trajectory of the rest of your life!

Every day I learn more about myself and the people in my life. My tribe and those around me are what make doing life so much easier! As I think about my faith, it is the people around me that show me God’s grace and love. People shape our story and every day new pages are added.

Originally published at www.kevinheikes.com on May 12, 2017.