“The story of God’s grace in my life really begins before even my first memory,” said John Crabtree. “My parents were surrounded by godly people who encouraged them in their relationships with the Lord, and this was beneficial when hardships came. At six months old, I was diagnosed with a genetic disorder, Neurofibromatosis type 1, that causes tumor growth all over my body. I started my life going to get an MRI every three months, being poked and prodded and tested to make sure there were no tumor growths in my brain.
“Through all of this, my parents exemplified Psalm 34:8: ‘Oh taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.’ They carried that truth with them, and from an early age, I was told, ‘We don’t know what the plan is, but we trust that God has a plan.’
“At six years of age, I had the best medical team anyone could ever hope for. I came out of a six-hour surgery in hopes of minimizing the tumor in my foot, and they told me they had failed. Through the natural progression of my disorder, I realized I would probably have this my entire life. Even at such a young age, I gained a perspective that showed me the reality of my situation. I knew there had to be more meaning to life than what I was experiencing. This is when I placed my faith in Christ and accepted Him as my savior.
“I know my parents had their fears and concerns with my health issues, but they always assured me that God had a plan – even amidst their own doubts. That set me up to know that when things don’t seem to be going right, I believe God has it (Proverbs 22:6). While they are definitely not perfect, my parents have set examples of how to follow the Lord by embodying a godly marriage and loving the Lord. They pushed my siblings and me to be involved in the local church and learn from the godly people around us.
“As I grew, I had continued surgeries. In middle school, I really came to understand 2 Corinthians and Paul’s thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:1-10). I learned that in my weakness, God is made strong. People can see Him through me. I really never questioned God’s intentions or plans with my disorder because I was always assured by His Word and those around me that He has a plan for me.
“I have found that learning to trust God with my health for so long has helped me more easily trust Him in many other areas of life like my career, friendships, and community. After moving to Dallas in 2020, I found a community group at Watermark that encourages me in so many ways. As guys, we don’t like to be vulnerable. It’s not easy, but those purposeful relationships can be built to honor God. We’ve walked through a lot of hard things together, but it has been so worth it to know I’m not alone in my struggles and hardships. If you’re just going through the motions and ‘checking the boxes’ of church and community instead of really putting forth the effort and heart behind it, you’re missing out on what God has for you – people whom God has given to genuinely care for you.
“I trust in God to show up. Just waiting to see what He’s going to do is exciting (Jeremiah 29:11). Do I appreciate my situation all the time? No. If I had to pick for myself, I wouldn’t pick living with a genetic disorder like this, but the joy and peace I have through Him in my life are assuring. I know my life is not my own. He gives me what I need to live day to day to reflect and honor Him. I’ve seen God show up throughout my life whenever I have needed Him.
“I’ve had troubles, and I’ve made mistakes. By the grace of God, the family I was given showed me that truth and peace are only found in Christ. I’m not perfect, but I quickly want to get back on the path that the Lord has set out for me because it was instilled in me so early and I am surrounded by others who encourage me daily to follow the Lord. I don’t have a big, dramatic moment in my story of God’s grace in my life, just a steadiness of faithful, God-honoring people speaking into my life.”