Monday, November 9, 2009

Faith of our Fathers

My father, John Crabtree, on the occasion of his 95th birthday celebration!

In spite of the challenges presented by this battle with malignant melanoma, I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity it has presented to reflect and comment on the critical role that faith has played in how we face adversity and the reality of our ephemeral journey on this planet. Having just returned from a whirlwind trip to Michigan for my father's 95th(!) birthday celebration, I am reminded anew of my great fortune to have been raised in a home with a heritage of Christian faith.

While not a perfect family by any means, my parents faithfully gathered all six children to attend Sunday morning services at a local Baptist church just three blocks from home. I now recognize what an enormous task this must have been and am grateful for their efforts. Sitting in a circle on the clapboard floor of Mrs. Mistele's Sunday School class, I learned of the genuine love of God and took those first steps of faith to surrender my life to Him completely.
Me and my three older brothers, in our Sunday best

The entire Crabtree clan on the front porch of our Detroit home

Generations earlier, my great grandfather Will Crabtree modeled a life of faith before his family. My Dad fondly recalls riding behind his grandpa every Sunday on old Dolly, the family plow horse, to the Piney Grove Baptist Church in Winfield, Tennessee. En route, great grandpa would stop at a special spot where he would get down to pray by an old log at the roadside in preparation for the services to follow. My father knelt beside him. His 95-year-old knees still bend in prayer today.

Having a clear consistent example of genuine faith at an early age is a powerful influence in the lives of those who choose to follow Christ. While faith is not inherited, it is more often caught than taught. A Barna Group study published October 11, 2004 found "that two out of three born again Christians (64%) made that commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday. Less than one out of every four born again Christians (23%) embraced Christ after their twenty-first birthday."

I am enormously grateful that all three of our daughters, at an early age, chose to follow Christ. While their mother and I made sure they heard the remarkable story of Jesus' life, we also recognized that genuine faith is consequential and demands a lifestyle surrendered to His will. We consciously sought to model a consistent commitment to the Lordship of Christ in our lives.

In each case as they made their own decision regarding faith, their mother and I wanted to make clear that doing so meant more than simply giving mental assent to the facts about Jesus (His deity, His remarkable life, death, burial and resurrection). Rather, in terms they could fully understand, trusting in Him meant they needed to make Him the boss of their life! (John 1:12-13) Gladly He is, so that they now model for their own children that same quality of surrendered faith.

I know not how many days I may have to invest in the lives of those I love. In reality, none of us does! But I find myself ever more conscious of the enormous privilege and responsibility to share in both clear words and consistent actions the transformative power of faith in a loving God of mercy and grace.

Dad, Happy Birthday and thanks for a heritage of faith!

1 comment:

  1. This is one extraordinary family heritage to be proud of !!!!!!!!!!! how blessed are your daughters and your grandchildren who come after them to tell this story one day as you are telling.....this is rare to find in families and GOD can certainly be glorified by your passing the torch....and challenging others to a firmly rooted faith. I pray you have many more days.