When Your Family’s Story is not great…

When I first became a Church of the Nazarene pastor, people would frequently ask if General Superintendent William Prince was my grandfather. Um…. no. Not by a long shot. This became more evident this week, when a cousin shared a 1937 Detroit newspaper article about my grandfather. The article doesn’t tell how my grandfather rescued a child from a burning building in heroic fashion. My grandfather did not lead a food drive to help the hungry in the Great Depression. I wish that were the case.IMG_6682.JPG

Apparently, a jury awarded my grandfather $5,000 (that’s over $92,000 in today’s dollars). This windfall came to the namesake of my brother and cousin because two men, the owner of a tavern, Fred Hicks and his son Raymond, tossed my grandfather out of their bar and beat him with a wooden mallet. Grandpa Fred claimed his knee was permanently damaged. The jury agreed.

It’s a brief article, but it gives a peek into my family history.

Princes have had a problem with alcohol. I’m not sure what prompted my grandfather’s hasty exit from the drinking establishment, but it’s not a stretch to say alcohol played a role. Of course, this incident happened approximately seven years after my grandmother (Fred’s wife) died of alcohol poisoning. Did I mention we had a problem with alcohol?

Princes haven’t always been good with money. $5000 was a lot of money during the Great Depression. When my grandfather died no one in the family worried about how they were going to spend their inheritance. There was no inheritance.

The article stated that the tavern owner was a middleweight boxer. My ancestors hit the bottle hard, but apparently did not hit the gym hard. Moreover, my grandfather must not have taken the advice that he gave his son (and my dad taught me): “When in trouble– do a lot of ‘cutting’ and ‘shooting.’ Cutting around corners and shooting for home.” Apparently, even before my grandfather’s kneecap was smashed by a wooden mallet, he was not the fleetest of foot.

It’s not a story that produces family reunion pride. We had substance abuse, money problems and we weren’t particularly smart or athletic All this to say, we were a mess.

Can anything good come out of 8376 Logan Street? Others may have given up on our motley crew. God did not. I’m not sure of where my grandfather stood with the Lord—he died before my dad met my mom. But in spite of all the dysfunction, all of Fred’s children came to faith. Many of Fred’s grandchildren and great grandchildren are serving the Lord. There are lawyers, teachers, nurses, counselors, and business people in the family. The two namesake grandsons (my cousin Fred and my brother Fred) both became pastors, so did three others. God never gave up on my family.

Your family story may include a drunk with a gimpy leg, like mine, but that doesn’t have to be the final word. God can redeem even the worst family’s story by making us part of His family and His story! Paul said this about himself, but it applies to me and my family: Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. (1 Timothy 1:15) Thanks be to God!


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