Pile Driven — Part 3
by Brian Crawford


June 2010


It’s been several months since I wrote “Pile Driven” – Parts 1 and 2 – of this ongoing story of my life. Since that time my whole world has been shaken to its foundation.

My wife of 11 years filed for divorce and my visitation with my four children was abruptly stopped after two years of visits with no problems. There have also been a few deaths in the family that I had to deal with as well as several legal issues on top of it all. It was all so crazy because, when I wrote “Pile Driven Parts 1 and 2” I thought that I was strong and that my faith was good.

But, to my surprise, when the walls came crashing down, I discovered I was still weak. Along with that emotion was doubt – still, no doubt in God, but self-doubt. It’s so crazy because deep inside I feel and have always felt that God will bring me through at some point. I just know the Big Man upstairs knows all, sees all, and one day that truth will set me free.

But, then I start asking myself, “Brian, if you are a Christian and living a Christian life, why can’t I feel free right now?” I know I can! It’s just reaching through to that most inner part of my soul and letting go of all the hurt and pain and seeing what God truly has in store for me. I still put God in all my conversations. I read, I worship, and I think about doing Godly things all the time. What am I missing? Faith? It says in the book of Mark, chapter 11:22-24, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth: you can say to this mountain, may you be lifted up and thrown into the sea and it will happen. But, you must really believe it will happen and have no doubts in your heart.

You can pray for anything and if you believed you received it, it will be yours. Those verses of scripture are so powerful to me. I find myself staring and meditating on scripture like that daily. I guess where it becomes hard is, for instance, when I have a court date and something very important is being decided in my case, or when I file an appeal. I pray and pray for God to help me and I really try to put it in his hands.

As I wait for the answers I feel my faith and trust growing and, as it says in scripture, I believe in my heart that that mountain can be moved. I believe this is that moment I have been hoping and praying for. Then, after weeks and months of it all, I get shot down again; another chance gone, another hope dashed.

Deep within me I feel empty when that happens. I feel afraid to question God, because I don’t want to doubt him. I don’t want to ask, “Why?”

So, I hang up the phone or I place the judgment paper back in the envelope. I take a deep breath and sit quietly, waiting for God to give me some direction. I have many supporters out in the world and they keep telling me to stay strong, so I start with that notion and tell myself, “It is in God’s time, Brian, not yours.”

I pick up the pieces, dust myself off and say o.k., what’s the next step? It’s funny how God puts the right people around me to help me accomplish tasks, but he does and I praise him for it. I still have many nights when I cry and wish and hope, but with God’s help I get through. I know that with faith comes perseverance.

In my essays for RED! – Pile Driven 1 and Pile Driven 2 – our chapel was doing really well. Since then, many inmates have been moved or released and things have changed. In prison a chaplain’s job can be very difficult. A prison chaplain has to cater to all religions. This, in turn, makes it difficult to give proper attention to the inmates who want more from their religion.

For some time now, our programs have gone through a rough patch, but I am happy to say that, currently, changes are being made to improve services. So, if you are an inmate and your programs are not so good, just pray and talk to your chaplain(s). Tell them what you want to see. God will work for you in prison, too.

Faith is a journey. It’s not something that comes overnight. I know that now more than ever. I often think of biblical figures such as Job, Joseph, Jesus, Paul, and many others. I think of their journeys and their reasons for what they went through. It all quickly makes sense when I compare my situation to their situations.

I think, “Well, if Job suffered then I can, too.” Or, “If Joseph was put in prison falsely – just as believe I have been – and he came through it all to be a king – then so can I.” I sit in my cell and watch my little 13-inch tv and see what’s going on in our world today, and I say, “Wow, it won’t be long until our Lord returns.”

Then I think of how great heaven will be. No suffering, no sorrow, just happiness and praising our Lord. What can truly be any better than that? I still keep my reminders on my wall. Above the head of my bed is a picture of Jesus and under it a poem that my best friend wrote.

The title is “Caged Bird,” and it goes like this: “Put in a place I should not be. Convicted of a crime that was not my deed. As the seasons fade, one into another, I cling to the love of my children, my friends, and mother. Dreaming of the day the courts will see the truth about this and set me free. When I can be with friends and family. The ones that always stood beside me. Until then my love floats on angel’s wings and who says a caged bird will not sing.”

Above my sink is a cross with a scripture from Psalm 27:3, saying, “Though a mighty army surrounds me, my heart will not be afraid. Even if I am attacked, I will remain confident in the Lord.”

Finally, above my cell door is another picture of Jesus and the words under it say, “I will never leave nor forsake you.”

All these things help my faith. I encourage you to place these faith reminders in your life.

When I think back on my life, if I would have just put God first, there’s a good chance I would not be here in prison today. If you’re going to give anything a chance, give God a chance. I am far from perfect and I have a lot of faith to build on, but in my heart I know my Lord is with me.

I often think of that saying about having the faith of a mustard seed can move mountains. I know I got way more faith than that. And I know many of you out there do, too. So, my words to you are: no matter how bad it gets, no matter how much we suffer, we serve a glorious God that can get us through it all.

Picture in your mind reaching out and grabbing God’s hand. Now, remember, when we let go, God is still holding on. Give it all to him.

God bless you all.  

Brian Crawford








Brian Crawford at the Marion Correctional Institution