Hope in the Midst of Rebellion
By Shannon Woodland
The 700 Club
CBN.com -The hippie movement of the 1960’s was suppose to be about peace, love and harmony. But through the eyes of Gabrielle Wheeler it was about neglect, abandonment and self - destruction.
“ I was very separated from my mom,” said Gabrielle. “I didn't have a bond with her. So it was very, very interesting. It was kind of like growing up with a stranger.”
Gabrielle grew up in a commune in Los Cruces, New Mexico. Often she was left alone to play with bags of marijuana and rolling papers while her mom read tarot cards and did drugs.
There were many men in her mom’s life and Gabrielle never knew which one might be her father.
Eventually her mom married, but he beat them. Her mom left him for someone who beat them even more.
“I remember being depressed since I was young. “I remember even at the age of about 9 or 10 just wanting to, being very depressed and wanting to not live anymore because I just felt like there was a lot of darkness in my life.”
Gabrielle said there was a light in the nightmarish existence. It came on Sundays when some people gave her rides to church.
“I remember the first Bible story I ever heard was the story about Job. And they said he was the man of many afflictions but in the end how God has blessed his life and I remember hearing that story and saying, you know what God, maybe my life is going to be hard when I’m young but if you could make it good when I’m older. I remember praying that prayer.”
And Gabrielle believed her only chance was to get away. At 14 she told her mother she wanted to move to California and live with some relatives. Her mom gave little resistance.
“I was so determined to not be like my mom. I was so determined to be completely different. And I said I’m never going to let a man beat me, I was never going to do drugs like my mom. I was going to be a good girl. But I didn’t know how.”
But escaping the influences of her past wasn’t so easy, as she learned when she started going to church with neighbors.
Gabrielle explained, “They didn’t know what to do with me because I had a crush on all my youth pastors. I was just a mess.”
“One day I walked into the church and like the devil spoke to me and said, what are you doing here? You don’t belong here. All the people are perfect, they have two parents and you come from this broken home, what are you doing here? I looked around and realized you’re right, what am I doing here?”
Gabrielle stopped going to church. Then at 18, she moved out on her own. One day while driving through New Mexico she looked up a man she had been told was her dad. He couldn’t give her the answer she hoped for.
“Your mom was very promiscuous, so I don’t know if you’re mine,” Gabrielle recalled. “All I can say when he said those words to me he might as well stamp me with the word rejection. And right after that time I said, if I can’t beat them, I might as well join them.”
From that point on Gabrielle did everything she swore she’d never do, which included having an abusive boyfriend.
“Became exactly like my mother and worse.”
“I was homeless for a year. I just traveled and hitchhiked up and down the coast of California and finally ended up at the Haight-Ashbury.”
There, in this San Francisco neighborhood, Gabrielle said she was constantly reminded of God.
“I remember in the Haight-Ashbury there would actually be these groups of people that would come and witness to us. But I would actually laugh at them.”
One day after taking several drugs she started to lose consciousness.
Gabrielle said, “I knew God was speaking to my heart that I needed to turn my life around and give it to Him. And that day I had done different drugs to numb the pain.”
“Then the room got very quiet, and the three walls started to turn black. And then an evil presence entered into the room and I saw my spirit start to leave my body and I screamed out Jesus save me and my spirit smashed back into my body.”
Terrified by the experience, Gabrielle came to the conclusion that hell was real and so was Jesus. The only people she knew to reach out to were the neighbors she went to church with when she was a teenager.
“They said, "Well, what do you want us to do for you? And I said, get me a bus ticket, I want to come back to the church and back to God."
Gabrielle moved in with her friends, who convinced her to surrender herself to police for outstanding drug possession charges. In jail, she started reading the Bible and learned what it meant to trust Jesus.
“The Lord dealt with me in jail, talked to me about surrendering your life, and making him the Lord of your life and completely turning everything over to Him.”
After serving a short sentence Gabrielle went into teen challenge where she learned how to let go of all the pain and rejection.
“There was a night where God spoke to me, he said, "you need to forgive your mother. And when he did that, I forgave her, a flood of tears just came over my eyes and I had never cried in my whole life.”
No longer haunted by her past, Gabrielle says her life is full. She’s married to John, a pastor, and they have four daughters.
Gabrielle reaches out to young girls in crisis who are much like she was. She has hope for them too because of what God did for her.
“God has become my father and He has taken care of me and He has provided for me, and He's opened up doors for me. I know that God is real because He saved me as I was dying and no one can convince me otherwise.”
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