As a teenager and young adult I thought of success as getting a good job, living in a big house and being someone important in my community. Basically, I thought I needed a lot of money and prestige to “make it.”
Then real life came along. Vance decided to go back to school shortly after we got married. He didn’t work a “real job” for several years while he got his degree and we lived on my starting teacher’s salary. Then he graduated and struggled to find work in his field. He tried his hand at having his own business but that didn’t work either. He just couldn’t bring himself to charge people what he was worth. By that time we had three kids and I started staying home full time. Then Vance’s jobs were in construction and often came with regular layoffs. He worked really hard but we never had much extra.
That was okay. We knew I was called to stay home with the kids. We knew that meant we lived on one income in a two income world. That meant staying in our “starter” house even with four kids and only three bedrooms. We never drove new-or even nice-vehicles. We never took a family vacation or bought new furniture. We rarely had extra but we always had enough. Jehovah Jirah truly showed himself faithful to provide our needs. And yes, mostly that was okay, but if I’m totally honest, sometimes, for me, the little bitty house and beat up old cars felt like failure. It wasn’t the life I’d thought I wanted.
But even in death, Vance continues to teach me. Specifically that a quiet, humble life lived serving Jesus and loving people is the truest measure of success. He was driving a 25 year old car the day he died. He never once cared what he was wearing or how long it had been between haircuts or that his shoes were (always) untied. He would rather spend his time coaching a team or talking with his family or helping little old ladies cross the street than to clean up the house or tackle my honey do list. I didn’t always love that. In fact, it often ticked me off a little.
But then he died. And in the wake of his death I have seen just how far reaching the influence of a simple servant can be. He impacted lives I had no idea about. Friends from almost 30 years ago flew in for his memorial services. I’ve heard stories of how his listening without judgement changed people’s lives. He encouraged people to follow their passions, to step up and lead. He forgave people, including me, who in no way deserved to be forgiven. He gave confidence to people others had given up on. He worked as if everything he did was for the Lord and as if every person he saw was a child of God.
Vance Crutchfield was far from a perfect man. Just like all of us, he was, after all, a human being. He would often be heard around the house letting out one of his Darth Vader sighs and saying, “God is good. I am not.” That might seem like a funny thing to say, but it was his way of reminding himself of his place. Of acknowledging that alone he was incapable of good but that any good seen in him was from Jesus Christ. (Romans 7:18)
He loved his God, his wife, his children, his family and his fellow man. He lived and loved simply. He gave more than he took and always waited to make sure everyone else had enough before serving himself. What greater measure of success is there?
Just to be clear, this life we built, I know it is good. It is what I wanted. I just didn’t always know that. Sometimes I forgot. But Vance never did. He always knew what he wanted: to be a good husband and father. To love and trust God in all things.