My Story

John Crawford, founder of God's Warrior Wear

A good friend told me that I should write a short story about my journey and how the idea for Warrior Wear came about. He was right in more ways than one. It somehow helped me to let go of some of the pain of my past that I was still carrying around inside.

One Sunday, my pastor said that if we knew the pain and struggles of each other’s journeys, we would all see that we are not that much different from each other. That alone would bring us closer together by hopefully creating more compassion for each other in the world. I share my story in the way my pastor had talked about in his Sunday message. This is a story of my painful journey which led me to feel so broken and hopeless…a journey that almost led me to take my own life. I hope people can relate to it in some way. I hope that it may also help people with their pain and struggles within their own journeys and assure them that there is hope for everyone. This is a very short account of the past eighteen years of my life.

I allowed problems, one after another, to bring me down and take control of my life. I allowed it to take me down a path that spiraled out of control, like a lot of people do. I have had two failed marriages that were very painful for everyone involved. My first marriage lasted 18 years, we were married in 1983, we separated in 1999, and divorced in 2001. It ended like a lot of marriages do when people get too complacent, too comfortable, and take each other for granted. Before we knew it, we had grown apart and the love and excitement we did have for each other just wasn’t there anymore. We both went outside of our marriage to find the feelings and excitement we didn’t have in our relationship anymore. I know it destroyed my daughters’ perception of how life should be—happy and secure, with their dad around to make sure everything would always be ok. They were only 11, 13, and 15 at the time. Prior to the separation, my daughters were very happy and thought everything was ok in our marriage. They excelled in both school and sports. I couldn’t have asked for better kids. We lived in Florida at the time, and after the divorce, I moved back to Delaware where I was born. I wanted them to come with me, but they decided they wanted to stay in Florida with their friends. Florida was the place they were all born, the place they called home. They didn’t want to leave the friends they had grown up with and wanted to finish school and graduate with them. They were already hurting inside, so I didn’t want to want to force the issue. Given the circumstances of the divorce I just wanted to get as far away from there as possible. Looking back now, I realize just how selfish I was by leaving them. I still made sure that most of the bills were paid and they didn’t go without anything, as far as things that they needed. It was the emotional support, my time, and love that I couldn’t give them by being so far away. That ended up causing their deepest scars and a lot of resentment toward me, as I would find out later in life. By leaving them, I feel like I took their innocence and their security away. To this day, I don’t think they feel worthy enough as they truly are in my eyes. They have had many failed relationships, struggled with alcohol, drug use, and depression. Most of their generation, the “entitlement generation” as we call them, grew up in broken homes. They didn’t get the normal family lives they should have been entitled to…as most of our generation received from our parents. That is what divorce will do to most kids. They say that seventy percent of marriages in the 80’s only lasted 15 years, and then we as parents wonder what is wrong with their generation.

My second marriage also ended in divorce. We were married in 2003 and bought a house in 2004. We were very happy together back then. She had three grown daughters, just as I did by then, all of them in their late teens and early 20’s. We knew going into our relationship that this could potentially cause problems. By 2004, my two youngest daughters were already living with us and my wife’s youngest daughter came to live with us shortly after. It wasn’t long before we started having problems. Throughout our marriage, all six of our daughters had lived with us at times. We had up to 11 people living with us at the same time, including grandkids, and some not so desirable boyfriends that I let move in. There was a lot of arguing, physical altercations between our daughters and boyfriends, and a lot of drinking and partying. There was almost no appreciation or respect for my wife or myself throughout that whole ordeal. It was a huge financial burden for me. My wife had only worked for a year and a half during our marriage and I had to work a lot of extra hours to pay the bills. Everyone that lived there contributed very little financially, and to save face, that’s all I will say about that. I had to use retirement funds just to keep us from losing our house in 2011 when I had neck surgery and was not able to work anymore. They all came to us because they had nowhere else to turn. They were our kids, now with kids of their own—our grandkids. I told myself that I would never fail my daughters again like I had before, at any cost, nor would I fail her daughters, because by now I felt they were my own daughters. The problem was that they divided us as a couple. Each of us siding with our own daughters amongst the fighting, arguing, and lack of contribution to the household. This all started just 2 years into our 12 years of marriage. Unfortunately, the cost was far greater than I ever anticipated, both financially and emotionally, no matter how much we wanted to help them. It all came to an end in 2015, when I finally reached my breaking point and we were divorced. The situation had changed me from the happy, easy going man I used to be. Within the course of the last ten years, I had become addicted to prescription pain meds and alcohol, was in and out of rehab, and suffered from depression. I self-medicated from the reality of my life and what it had become. This was not how my life was prior to 2007, I was very happy and never had any problems with addictions or depression.

It was a woman breaking my heart in 2016, along with all the other problems that I never let go of, that finally brought my whole world crashing down. An end to my pain filled, addiction filled path, that almost ended my life with suicide. I never talked openly about this, but my dad committed suicide when he was 48, this was in 1983. I was 24 at the time and living with my parents. I was by his side seconds after the gunshot. I could barely even lift his arms to roll him over, he was already dead by then. That vision is etched in my memory and I will never be able to forget it. The strange thing is, I never really cried about it because I never really forgave him for it. That’s when I started realizing how much pain that he must have been feeling that day that led him to pull that trigger. Now I was feeling that pain and facing the same situation he did. I was so ready to follow my dad’s path, almost as if it was my own fate also. That’s when I realized just how weak and broken I really was. I had lost all my hope for life and didn’t care about anything anymore. Prior to that day, my addiction to alcohol had made me feel like I was indestructible and in control of my life. But now, my pain had become greater than my addiction. I was in a situation in my life now that I swore I would never do to my kids. I was sure the odds of me seeing tomorrow were very slim. That is when I reached out to God, crying and pleading for his help. All I wanted Him to do was give me the courage to pull that trigger…or give me a reason not to. I just sat quietly on my back deck for what seemed like an eternity, not thinking about anything. A peaceful feeling came over me and He just started to clear my thoughts and calm my mind, my soul, and my heart. It was like He was talking to me, guiding me through thoughts and showing me the importance of being here on this earth. I had accepted Jesus in my heart years ago, but I never really lived like he was in my heart or part of my life. Now, I prayed for Him to come into my heart, and he did. Jesus is the one that showed me what life was all about that day. He stopped me from leaving my daughters and my grandkids in this lost and broken world to fend for themselves. He showed me what is important in my life, and it wasn’t all about just me. He showed me my reasons for living, how my kids and grandkids will always need me, just as I need them. Jesus saved me that day, I truly believe that with all my heart, not anything else. But He wasn’t quite done showing me the way. He wanted to show me my first steps to achieve my new journey if I wanted to do it right this time. You see, He had witnessed me getting lost every time I tried to walk the right path in my life before.

Right after that, I got in my truck and drove to a church that I found open. I went in to ask if I could talk to someone. I knew Jesus had already saved my life that day, but for some reason I still needed to connect and maybe talk with someone. Some might say I was second guessing God, and maybe I was. I was lucky enough to talk to an older woman and I told her what was going on. The second she touched my hands and started to pray for me, I knew that was what He wanted me to feel. The kind of love and understanding that is shared by God through us all. I soon figured out that God was in control of that whole situation, and He was teaching me a valuable lesson. He showed me I could have that kind of love too, all the time, just by paying more attention to Him. I believe He did this to show me I needed to surround myself with more people like this woman of great faith for me to build my faith and my love for Him.

You see, as most of us do, I had been searching for that one true love that would satisfy me my whole life. The love that I could always count on being there for me, the one that would never forsake me or cause me any pain. I just never realized that love, the love that Jesus and my God have for me, was within my heart the whole time. I know that myself and most everyone else in this world search our whole lives for that inner peace and great love. The problem is, we look in the wrong places. We look for people and material things in life for this happiness and inner peace. Nothing of this world is promised nor lasts forever. The inner peace and love we are all searching for has been in our hearts the whole time. God and Jesus and knowledge of the gospel is what will complete you and bring your life full circle, as it did for me. You want inner peace, a great love that will never forsake you, and so much love and confidence for yourself, then accept and pursue Jesus. This is how you really get set free of this world and its problems. Surrender it all because we will never have ultimate control of our lives no matter how much we think we do. Knowing this, the worries and fears seem to disappear as my faith gets stronger. This is what having God in my life and accepting Jesus in my world has done for me.

Prior to that day last year, my relationship with God was almost non-existent. I called myself a Christian, but I was living my life and going through the motions. I lived life the hard way, keeping my problems to myself, thinking the whole time I could deal with them, never showing my real pain or concerns to anyone. I believed I was this strong and independent tough guy and nothing could rock the foundation of my core. I realized that the last ten years had caused me to become angry and resentful toward my family—the people I loved—and I was blaming them. But the person I had become through all that surely didn’t make their lives any easier either, I realize now. I hope someday they can forgive me for being that person, as I have forgiven them. I realized that I never had a solid foundation in my life at all, because I never had built a real relationship with Jesus in my heart.

As I look back, I am so thankful for that day now. It made me realize just how broken and lost I really was. If that day had never come to pass, I would have never really experienced the true deep love that Jesus has for me. I know now without a doubt, Jesus was born of this world, walked this earth as a Man, sent by his Father, free from all sin, only to die for our sins. I think about the ridicule, persecution, and torture He went through while He walked on this earth, only to be crucified on a cross and die for us all. That is true love. I will stand tall now and never again be ashamed, embarrassed, or reluctant to tell anyone that I love Jesus. My new journey in life will be eternal this time, I will put Him first in everything I do. I realized through all of this that I had become a self-righteous person, praising myself or counting on the praise of others to make me happy. I think a lot of us do this or count on others for this praise to make us happy without even realizing it. I feel this is what causes our low points in life when we don’t get that. I also realized that I was far from being humble in my life. Learning the true meaning of Glory really put my life into perspective and everything became very clear to me. I learned that God gives us glory, just as we give Him glory. I realized I did count on other people’s praise and materialistic things of this world to give me happiness and satisfaction, glory if you will. That is why I lost all hope when everything fell apart in my life. The only glory I need now is that which comes from God, especially when life gets hard. My belief and my faith are growing stronger everyday with Jesus in my heart and God in my corner. The stronger my faith grows in Jesus and my Father, the more glory I receive from Him. I believe this alone is the key to my inner peace and happiness—knowing He is happy with me and for me. It is His glory I will seek first and foremost in my life now. It is His glory that gives me the satisfaction and validation I needed in my heart and soul. He is also teaching me a whole new meaning to the word “appreciation”, for both people and things. It is called love. It took losing almost everything and everyone in my life for this change to take place. The things I took for granted I now count as blessings, not possessions. But what I love most about my new journey is the guidance that Jesus is giving me to make the changes in myself to become the best person that I can possibly be in God’s eyes. Not all relationships, nor anything you obtain of this world, will last forever or give you everlasting satisfaction. No one knows what tomorrow holds, except God's love for us. I can’t go back in life to undo the wrongs and make them right. But with Jesus in my heart, it is easier to let them go, along with the pain and guilt I was carrying inside my heart. So now I keep my focus on the light at the end of this tunnel I call life. Because no matter what happens, I know that light at the end is my eternal life. Everything else in life will come to pass, but it is my destination in life that is most important for me now. Until that day comes, I will walk with Jesus in my heart and seek the glory of my Father and become the son that I can only hope will make God proud.

I think most of us do believe in God, whether people want to admit it or not. There is a world population of 7.6 billion people in 2017, 6.28 billion people believe in a God. We pray for change and ask for forgiveness when things go wrong. Then, a week later, we go right back to the same way of life that keeps our problems coming back, as I was. Like I said, I was just going through the motions without a solid foundation and calling myself a Christian. I am building a new foundation now out of the love and glory I receive from God. It is a work in progress, but I know if my life comes crumbling down around me again, I will still be standing tall on a solid foundation. I also know that life built on a solid foundation with God has a much better chance of withstanding storms and staying together. Jesus can wave his hand at any time and make our lives perfect, but that isn’t how He intended us to live in this world. We would learn nothing in life, nor would we ever build faith or strength in ourselves or Him. Jesus will work through you if you let him, but he’s not going to work for you and do all the work, as I have learned the hard way. Jesus will walk with you on your journey through life and He will help clear your path for you also. He will align you with the right people on your journey, as He did for me. He will comfort you and love you in troubled times. If you are sincere within your heart, and stay true to Him, and just love Him. But he’s not going to drag us down that righteous path. It is up to us to stand and walk it ourselves, while keeping Jesus in our hearts along this journey. This is what will build your faith and your strength, along with prayer, scriptures, going to church, and just talking to Him. It isn't hard to follow God. Church is one day a week, when most people are off work, yet we make excuses for why we don’t go. We can pray and read our bibles anywhere. It is surrounding yourself with people that share that same belief for Jesus that builds your faith, confidence, and strength from within. The stronger your faith in Him, the stronger your faith and confidence in yourself becomes, and the happier you will be. That’s when your life becomes easier, and your blessings become bigger. He will answer your prayers and will always be there when you need Him. Don’t be afraid of God, as I was, by not feeling worthy enough, or questioning how He could ever forgive you. He will, every time. He already knows we are not perfect, nor does he expect us to be. All we need to do is ask for forgiveness and keep trying to do better. We must also educate ourselves with the bible and build a relationship with Him or it won’t work. We will never receive the grace, glory or true love that awaits us without putting time into that relationship or any other relationship. This universe is full of life and love, and it is created way too perfect in a natural state for me to believe otherwise. As for me, I will put all my faith, love, and hope in Jesus, my Father, and in the Heavens above, not of this world. This world will let you down, but God will always be there for you, if your heart is good and full of love with Him in it.

There is only one reason I’m telling my story in detail for everyone to see it. The same reason my pastor had talked about in his Sunday message. I hope to somehow strike the compassion and love for each other that I know we still have in our hearts. Hopefully, we, as a human race, can come together and somehow stop being so divided, and understand that everyone has a story to tell. I think our compassion for other people just got buried deep in our hearts by the struggles of life we all go through. I think television and social media has also played a big part in making this world become desensitized and numb. If you believe in God, then there is compassion in your heart. We have just let life make us selfish and our hearts harder. No matter where or what side of the spectrum of life you are on in this broken, lost, and divided world, I think most would agree that this world needs Compassion, Unity, and God if we are going to survive in this world together. Without His love for us and this world, nothing exists. God created us and this world from love. He sacrificed his only son so we can be forgiven for our sins, and have eternal life in Heaven. That is love. Somewhere along the line, I think we have lost sight of this, and we need to get that back. I feel safer in this world, and in my life, knowing God is in control of it, no one else. We need to let Him and his love for us be our unity for each other. For me, Warrior Wear is about empowerment, positivity, compassion, unity, and God. All of which this broken and divided world needs, especially now. Let’s face it, there are people in this world that are trying to take God away from us. I will never let anyone or anything take God away from me. I will protect my love and my belief in Jesus, just as I would protect any other family member, with my life. It is time that we stand up for what we know in our hearts is right and what we believe in. We need to come together as a nation and a world, and unify within a majority belief, and that is God, no matter the religion. If we take God out of the equation of this world, this world does not exist. Because this world, and everything in it, is his creation. There is nothing of this world or universe more powerful than God, or that will unify more people.

I would like to thank my good friend Lee for inspiring me to write this story for the website and for believing in me. I would also like to thank my pastor at Reach Church, Pastor Chuck. It was another Sunday message about how people are leaving the church, especially the younger generations. His Sunday message is what planted the seed and started me thinking about what I could do as an individual. I look around at this world and I see people trying to take God out of it. That’s not okay with me. I want people to feel empowered and to stand up for their belief in God. This is my way of reaching out to as many people as possible, especially younger people, with empowerment, positivity, belief, and unity. We need to bring God back to the forefront of this divided and lost world if we are to survive.

I would also like to thank Reach Church and every soul that walks into this building. I feel like I have inherited a whole new family that will always have my back, as I will have theirs in any way I can.

Most importantly, I would like to thank God and our savior, Jesus Christ. He alone deserves all the praise and glory for this idea. Because this idea is a blessing from God, I would have never thought about this without His guidance. So please don’t wait until you are as broken as I was. Receive God's glory and use it to build a solid permanent foundation in your life to stand on and receive your inner peace and validation from Him. Then you will be able to withstand any storm. For those of you that do hold the pain of your journey in, and are fearful of somebody finding out your story, tell your story. Because once you tell your story, the fear of them finding out is gone. You won’t have to hide behind fear and pain anymore, and you will see that you are not that different from them. My friends, that is unity.