A Life Full of God-Moments by Dan Page, Volunteer Storyteller
God is faithful. He loves us; he has plans for us; and he pursues us, even when we turn away. For Charlie Gardner, it took friends and family God had placed in his life to turn him toward life in the Word he first embraced as a youth. And it took a powerful near-death experience and a miraculous recovery to set the embers of a faith forged around a campfire ablaze.
Charlie accepted Christ as his personal savior in a powerful conversion experience as 13-year-old at a Tennessee church camp in 1969. “The feeling was profoundly transformative as the Holy Spirit filled (me) with deep joy,” Charlie writes in his book “Always Remember This Moment.” I “was too young to know there would be potholes along the way. That God is always testing.”
Youthful rebellion yielded poor choices. Partying his way through high school and college, he came away with a degree in civil engineering and substance abuse issues. He worked hard and played hard as he achieved professional success. He was appreciated as a hard worker and good friend, but the lifestyle pulled him up short.
After losing his job and his home in 1997, Charlie regained his footing thanks to passionate 12-step sponsors and began again. He found a new job. He fell in love and embraced his new wife’s young twins as his own. And while the marriage ultimately failed, the friendship with his ex-wife and bond with his step-children remained strong.
His personal and professional life seemed back on track in 2011, when he contracted pneumonia that went septic. For weeks he lingered in a medically induced coma as his body struggled to fight the infection. One day as he lay comatose attended by friends and family, he recalls “floating out of his body and up to a bluish white light,” Charlie writes. “He felt peaceful because several shadowy beings at this side shepherded him toward that light, saying, ‘Do not fear.’ … He recognized the crucial moment of God’s tremendous presence. It was everywhere.”
Then he heard his step-daughter cry, and he “whooshed immediately down a wormhole” and opened his eyes. Recovery took months and the support of those ever-present friends and family, a true blessing. Why did he come back? In his own words: “So, I could always remember that moment; so, I could relish these moments that I’m still having; so, I could feel trust and be assured of my relationship with God.”