Blessed To Be A Blessing

David Crittenden
Committed Member, Volunteer and Lay Leader, the Family of God

After speaking about Family of God at the congregational meeting in November, Miriam Rossow asked if I would consider sharing more from my story and experience with this ministry. She asked how I have seen my experience with Family of God affect my relationships with others, with Jesus, with the ministry or the people it serves.

“Oh, Lord!” was something like my initial reaction. This would require a level of introspection and revelation that, frankly, my beloved Christ Our Savior small group doesn’t know about my heart after a decade of fellowship! … and Linda Waara raised the bar in the November/December Disciplegram with her eloquent statement, to wit – “There is unexpected joy in giving of yourself to others and putting your spiritual gifts to use.”

In a middle school journalism class, I learned: Don’t bury the lead. So, here is a quick answer to Miriam’s request. In my journey the past few years as a fellow traveler with the Family of God community, I have grown in compassion, respect, humility and gratitude; while allowing myself to be more vulnerable and transparent.

Recently, I attended worship at Family of God, where a fragile baby girl was baptized. As Vicar Tyler and Pastor Hill administered the Sacrament, I reflected on the fact that we are all children of the same God, and that divine grace is freely-available to everyone, no matter the circumstances. We are all broken.

Flash back 57 years:
I was born – and baptized – into a stalwart, striving family of strong men and stronger women, where education, hard work, personal responsibility, confidence, and high expectations had been the guard rails for many generations. Dad was a former naval officer. Mom still pens gracious thank you notes. Two dozen first cousins share the same genetic and spiritual DNA.
An Anglo/German/Swedish-descended boy in the world’s most prosperous country. How lucky can a baby get?
 
In 3rd grade, I began piano lessons. “Performing” in front of groups is something I learned about. Practice and managing butterflies, too. Development of future spiritual gifts?

In college, I played in one of the nation’s most highly-regarded marching bands, where my Alma mater’s famous fight song rather-proudly proclaims a University that is “Leaders and Best.” True, in some instances. Arrogant to many. I know now that confident, outgoing, educated people can come across as smug, but the world was my oyster beginning in 1984, even as my heart remains “true Blue”.

My personal walk with Jesus has taken steps forward, ever since. Not always up; generally forward.

Several years working with faith groups supporting Habitat for Humanity taught me “the theology of the hammer.” Fertile ground for Christian evangelism is found in an active service ministry that addresses a basic human need.

A Christ Our Savior congregational study exposed me to the language of a “purpose-driven” church: Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship, Mission - and Ministry.

Under Judy Mayle’s tutelage, Bethel Bible Study offered me the biblical understanding and spiritual awareness that we are “blessed to be a blessing.” Other than the Bible, truer words were never written.

Indeed, I am blessed with an amazing, caring, compassionate, intelligent wife. God blessed Janeen and me with two gifted, beautiful children who seldom give us cause to doubt why we chose to become parents. I generally achieved my career goals, often working with “challenged bosses”, and prosperity has followed. Northville, Michigan is a pretty, clean, safe place to live, full of “people like us”.

And then, on October 25, 2007, when I was 45-years-old, I finally became an adult. My dad died the morning of my brother’s birthday following a sudden, acute illness. I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming grief that followed, but his passing made me vastly more sensitive to the frailty of just about everything, the silent suffering of people you pass on the street, and the Peace that passes all understanding.
 
In my lifetime, dear family members or beloved friends have suffered life-threatening emergencies, chronic disease (cancer, heart, kidney), infertility, accidental deaths, unemployment, divorce, alcohol and narcotics addiction, confusion over sexual orientation, homelessness, murder and suicide. As my alertness has grown, I now grasp that most people share similar narratives, only with different faces attached.
 
At the community called Family of God on Whittaker and Central in Detroit, the wages of sin’s impact on real people are obvious, immediate, and cyclical. But does an infant girl baptized December 8, 2019 in a hardened neighborhood church in southwest Detroit really “deserve” a different outcome than a blessed boy born in Jackson, Michigan in 1962? Does a man or woman suffering chronic addiction or mental illness who keeps falling off the ladder – perhaps for undiscovered reasons – really deserve our antipathy? No.

Family of God strives to bring hope to the hopeless by showing our community the love and compassion that our Savior Jesus Christ has for everyone. Which is why I took up Pastor Hill’s invitation to “come and see” four years ago. I haven’t stopped.
 
"Family of God strives to bring hope to the hopeless by showing our community the love and compassion that our Savior Jesus Christ has for everyone."

My personal experience with the men, women and children who are my brothers and sisters at the Family of God lead me to alter the lyrics of a venerable song. Over time, it’s becoming: “I will know I am Christian, by my love.”  My prayer is that others will find their way to Family of God and the joy that comes as a sponsor, mentor or volunteer.
"Ancient words ever true
Changing me, and changing you.
We have come with open hearts
Oh let the ancient words impart."
-Michael W. Smith
Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

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