Nathaniel Gibbs: A Personal Testimony, Part 1 “Life Before God”

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Nathaniel Gibbs: A Personal Testimony, Part 1 “Life Before God”

Editorial Note. The following is part 1 of the personal testimony of Pastor Nathaniel Gibbs. Nathaniel was living a life of skepticism until his life was transformed. Remarkably, his worldview changed from atheism to trusting fully in the Bible and loving Jesus. Nathaniel is now a partner in ministry with his wife Jharony. Both hold masters degrees from Andrews University, where Nathaniel is now pursuing his Ph.D. in Systematic Theology.

A Close Call at the Very Beginning

My story begins with two of my best friends, my parents. After my parents got married, my dad decided to buy a house. Growing up, my dad never quite learned how to swim because he almost drowned when he was younger. Now being older he thought, “I should buy a house that has a pool to learn how to swim.” However, He did not realize how much work it was to care for and maintain a pool in Michigan. It took quite some time to get it ready and in the meantime,  I was born. Finally, the time came when my dad was finished prepping the pool and could finally learn how to swim. Now part of the process of getting the pool ready, after being closed, was that he had to vacuum the pool. He placed his little baby in a contraption that allowed me to walk around the sidewalk while he was vacuuming.  So, as he was vacuuming the pool in the shallow end, he heard a loud splash, then he looked over and there I was in the deep end. He suddenly said to himself, “what am I going to do?” He did not have much time to ponder the situation. He could either stay safe in the shallow end and let his son die or he could risk his life and try to save his son. He did not waste much time determining what to do, and jumped to the bottom of the deep end and grabbed his son. Kicking and thrashing around he managed enough ability to swim to save both our lives. Struggling to swim he made it to the edge of the pool with his son, placed him on the edge of the pool, and was able to see his son miraculously breathing, alive and perfectly healthy. I’m so glad my father, went into that pool to rescue me. I am so glad my dad saved me. Otherwise, this would be a rather short testimony ending in tragedy.

 

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After almost losing a child, my parents had another baby, my brother Jacob. However, my mom became very sick during Jacob’s pregnancy. In fact, my brother and I were both such brats that the thought of having a third boy resulted in my mom choosing to stop with two children rather than try for a third! (Even if that meant she would never have the daughter she always wanted.) I am not sure whether we had a perfect family but when I was young it seemed like it was  “Leave it to Beaver” to me. This perception, however, was going to change.

 

Upheaval at Home

I was about nine years old and my mom and I were driving to the grocery store when suddenly, she started crying, and  I mean really crying. “What am I supposed to do?” I thought, “I am the kid and she’s the mom. She’s the one who gets me to stop crying. That’s the superpower of moms. I don’t have that ability.” I muttered to myself while being totally freaked out. She finally stopped and said, “Your father and I are getting a divorce and dad is going to jail.” My whole world turned upside down at that moment.

 

My father ended up going to jail for drug trafficking and my parents did indeed divorce. After that, my life wasn’t perfect, but my brother and I did a decent job adjusting. It sure helped that my mom was getting a masters in child psychology. She was determined to make sure we would not end up emotionally messed up. Interestingly, having divorced parents did have its perks, two sets of birthday presents and two sets of Christmas presents. In addition to that, when dad got out of jail, I think he was feeling super guilty, so as a manner of penance,  he bought all the video games and got everything my brother and I wanted. I was super spoiled by my dad and mom took great care of us. If that was all that happened to us as a family, I think we would have had a pretty banal life.

 

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A Turning Point

The divorce and jail time were not all that happened to us though. When I was sixteen years old, misfortune struck again. I was enjoying life, playing video games against my friends over a modem. Back in the ’90s, internet modems would run through the phone line and it would make bizarre noises when you connected. I actually miss those sounds. What I don’t miss is call-waiting (the ability for you to click over to another phone call instead of getting a busy tone.) Anyways, when your modem was interrupted by a call, there was a high risk of being killed in the game. Note, back then, I would beat my friends all the time. In fact, I don’t think my friends have ever beaten me. While playing one day, my mom and brother left for Jacob’s basketball game. Not too long after they left, my game was paused because someone kept calling me. Annoyed, I took the call and they told me that my mom and my brother were in a serious car accident and that I needed to get dad and get to the hospital right away.

 

I called my dad and he rushed over. When he arrived, he came into the house crying. My dad does not cry. I remember one day when I was young, that my dad got his thumb caught up in his motorcycle, between the spoke and the fork, and the thumb was torn off so bad it was only hanging by a thread. But he didn’t cry. He just came in the kitchen while holding his thumb and asking my mom to take him to the med center. But when he came into the house after that car accident, that was the first time I  had seen him cry. So, of course, I started crying. The reason why he was crying was that he saw the wreckage of the car. It was a terrible accident. The car was hit and went across the street, and was pushed up a tree, and smashed back on to the ground.

 

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My dad rushed us to the hospital. We got there to find out that my mom and brother were both comatose. We waited and waited. Jacob was finally brought to us. They said positive things about his recovery and reassured us he would revive from the coma. It was only a matter of time. When my mom came through, however, it was with a whole entourage of nurses and a plethora of machines. They were not so positive about her situation and could not guarantee recovery. My brother was in the coma for a couple of days. My mom was in comatose for 6 months. Throughout most of that time, we did not know if she was going to survive. Sometimes, I remember wishing that she would have died rather than hovering between life and death, stuck in limbo.

Where was God?

The church, which I attended with my mom and brother called me during the time of my mom’s coma. They asked if I was ready to be confirmed. (Confirmation is the sacrament where you become an adult member of the church by choosing to confirm the baptism that you had as a baby.) I said, “I did not know if I believe in God anymore.” I thought to myself, “If my mom, who was the best Christian I knew, was to have God do this to her, what would he end up doing to me? I don’t think I want to believe in a God like that.” The other person answered, “It doesn’t matter.” “WHAT!” I screamed inside my head. How could it not matter? How can it not matter that I do not believe in God? My mom is a vegetable in the hospital and God isn’t going to do anything about it. He was the one who put her there. “No, thank you,” I said in exasperation while slamming the phone down. Metaphorically, I slammed the phone on God too that day. I had become an atheist.

 

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My mom, being in this coma, left a hole in my heart. I tried different things to fill the hole but nothing ever worked. I won in football, got good grades, was in the marching band. I even got a girlfriend, only to have her dump me by email right before senior prom for an underclassman. It was at that point that I started doing delinquent things including doing drugs. When I was twenty, I ended up in the hospital, overdosed on LSD and almost died while attending Mari Gras in New Orleans. LSD messed me up. It stayed in my system and left me mentally broken. I could barely function anymore, I thought I was going nuts. I was always worrying about flashbacks. I needed help, I needed to be saved.

 

During all of my experimentation, my parents remarried and my mom was living back at home (my dad really grew up and did the right thing moving back home to take care of the family). After a really bad flashback, I chose to take my mom back to church, to see if that would help. When the priest was talking, he sounded like the adults in Charlie Brown cartoons (whomp, whomp, whomp). Getting nothing from the sermon, I knelt down at the church and prayed that if God is real, then He had to reveal himself to me… I really didn’t think there would be an answer….

[To be continued.]

Click here to read the rest of Nathaniel’s personal testimony!

 

 

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About the author

Nathaniel Gibbs

Nathaniel Gibbs was living a life of skepticism until his life was transformed. Remarkably, his worldview changed from atheism to trusting fully in the Bible and loving Jesus. Nathaniel is now a partner in ministry with his wife Jharony and they both just graduated with masters degrees at Andrews University, where Nathaniel is now pursuing his PhD in Systematic Theology.