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Man Saved by Reckless Mistake

“My dad sat down and looked at my sister and looked at me and said your mother and I are going to separate. We’re going to get a divorce.   And that blindsided me.” At first, it didn’t make sense to 12-year-old Nathan  why his parents divorced. In his eyes they were good Christians who raised their family to love and trust God. Later, the pieces started coming together.   

Nathan recalls, “I began to find out, slowly, that my dad struggled with alcohol, my mom struggled with alcohol. My dad had some struggles with some fidelity. It broke me because I thought our family was that cookie-cutter family that was perfect. I remember looking at them both and saying I will never be like you.”

Nathan felt his parents weren’t the only ones who had betrayed him. “I began to attach my emotion and the blame a lot on God. I got angry at God.” He slowly turned away from church.  “By my junior year I was a full blown alcoholic. I’m smoking marijuana. I’m snorting cocaine. I’m popping pills. I want to feel loved, I want to feel accepted. I’m trying to fill hurts and pains. And so instead of now leaning towards God and the youth groups and the body of people around me that care, those voids are still there. Now I’m plugging it with alcohol, I’m plugging it with getting high.”

His senior year Nathan was expelled for skipping school and failing his classes. Afterwards, he joined the Army, trying to get a new start. He remembers, “I was serious about changing my life. That was a moment when I was I’m going to come back from the Army and I’m going to be different. And I’m going to be a totally brand new man.”  But after boot camp, he fell back to his old habits, and was kicked out of the Army for drugs and going A.W.O.L. He stayed with friends and worked minimum wage jobs, spending his money on alcohol. By now he felt even God wouldn’t want him. “I just began to really believe that I’d made too many mistakes and this was all life had for you now was drugs, alcohol, and nothingness. There’s a sense of hopelessness, you know.”

Then late one Friday Nathan met up with a friend at a bar, and they decided to go to a party.  Nathan remembers, “I was really drunk. She had just showed up, she was sober. But the process from leaving the bar and getting into her Jeep, somehow I got the keys. The next thing I remember was her just scream, tree! And I looked right. And I see her blond hair and her face. And everything froze. And I just hear that word, “tree”. And it was black. I woke up then and I was in a helicopter. And it was windy and it was cold. And I woke up in a hospital with police officers over top of me asking me questions. And I was asking ‘What’s going on? What’s going on?’ because I’m clueless; my ankle’s throbbing, it’s broken. And they said, ‘you were in a bad accident. You hit a tree.’

Nathan asked about his friend but got no answers.  By now his mom was there,  and took him home with her.  The next morning he went out to get the paper. “And I unroll it and I look at the headline and it says “Crash Victim Dies”. My whole world just stops.  Shame, guilt, I can’t even fathom… And here I sit, 23, with the reality that I’m responsible for killing somebody.” A few days later Nathan heard that the woman’s family asked him to contact them.   “I didn’t know what to expect. How do you even begin to pick up a phone and call somebody and say ‘I’m sorry’. But I did.” He said, “And they just right away just said ‘Nathan, we just want you to know that there’s no reason that two lives and two families are destroyed from one poor choice. And this family said ‘I forgive you.’ I didn’t deserve a family to forgive me. If anything, I deserved to be the kid that got what he finally deserved. I deserved them to hate me, I deserved them to want me in prison for the rest of my life, I deserved my life to be over. And when that family said just said we forgive you and they meant it. It messed my world up. I couldn’t explain it. And I couldn’t keep running from God.”

Later Nathan was arrested and charged with reckless homicide. He recalls his first night in jail – the same night he surrendered his life to Jesus Christ.  “And I said ‘God, I have no idea what’s ahead of me. I have no idea how long I’m going to be gone for. But regardless of if it’s 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, I need You in my life. Forgive me.’ And just the most unbelievable presence of God, it seemed like it just filled up that cell. And I had such a peace.” Nathan signed a plea agreement for 15 years with 5 suspended.  From the start, he used his time behind bars to serve God.  “I began to really just pursue everything that God had for me. And letting my life now be His life for Him to use, just to be His hands and feet, you know. To teach people how to love, live and look like Jesus. To let people know there’s hope.”

Nathan was released after just two and a half years. Today he’s a pastor and speaker sharing how God’s grace can free you from the burdens of your past.
“No matter what I did, the plan would fail. But I never got what I deserved. And it was always that grace and it was always that mercy. God was just after me. God’s after all of us, Jesus is just pursuing us, you know.”

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