Seeking the Healer

Summer of 2010 was coming to a close and time was running out. I peered down at my lifeless legs as the therapists moved them back and forth on the treadmill. Everything inside of me wanted to deny it, but the realization was inevitable: I would not be walking back on campus when classes began for the new school year.

Simulating a walking motion while being suspended in a harness over a treadmill
Simulating a walking motion while being suspended in a harness over a treadmill

I had tried everything. I’d spent two months at a spinal cord injury facility in Atlanta, Georgia. I’d spent hundreds of hours at a local spinal cord injury rehab center. I’d been regularly receiving treatments of physical therapy, chiropractic, massage therapy, craniosacral therapy, acupuncture, reflexology… all in addition to supplements and diet modifications. Each day was scheduled with an array of efforts intended to work my way back up to standing on my own two feet.

The plans in my head were pretty resolute: Work my way back to full health and be back in full swing to the life I knew on campus by the fall. I was so confident in my own ability that when running for a treasurer position in a group on campus, I told the other members not to worry about my lack of ability to hold money; it would be back by the fall. But then it wasn’t. As stated in a previous post, “Want to make God laugh? Tell Him your plans.”

This just wasn’t going along with the pattern of life I was accustomed to when it came to working hard. Practice and lift weights? Perform better on the athletic field. Study and stay diligent with schoolwork? A 4.0 GPA would follow. While being paralyzed below the shoulders was quite a mountain to overcome, I figured surely I could make my way over the top through rigorous physical therapy.

The humbling reality set in when I heard the hypothetical question, “Is there anything you are doing right now that you actually have to rely on God for in order to succeed?” The truth is, up until this point I was under the impression I could do it all on my own. As months passed by, putting my hope into my own physical performance would only lead to disappointment. Nothing was happening and I could not do a thing about the fact that signals were not connecting from my brain to the rest of my body.

The realization began to take shape: no matter how hard I worked, no matter how much effort, ingenuity, creativity, or time spent, I had to accept the plain and simple truth: I cannot do this on my own. I began to realize my hope was in my own physical abilities rather than in Jesus. I was simply seeking healing when, in actuality; seeking the Healer Himself is all that I need.

It started out in desperation. I knew I could not heal myself, so I figured my best bet was going to the only one I knew of who made a habit of healing the paralyzed: Jesus. While my initial posture was, “What can you do for me?” Jesus met me right where I was. As I began to swallow my pride and surrender the idea that I could do it all on my own, He became more real. A genuine relationship was developed and He was no longer a genie to rub to get my wish of walking once again. The Bible became a source of life I could not get enough of, rather than a dusty book on the shelf. The healing itself took a back seat on my priority list.

Does that mean that all the difficulties of paralysis just disappear into thin air? Absolutely not. Does it mean that I’ve given up on the idea of walking again one day? Not for one second. Does believing Jesus is the only one who can heal me mean that I just passively sit in bed all day waiting? Not at all.

Weight bearing in the standing frame for 30 minutes has become part of my daily routine
Weight bearing in the standing frame each day reminds me of the view from 6’1″

I still do daily physical therapy. Stretching, strengthening of muscles that do currently function, and standing up in the frame pictured above are all a part of my routine. 1 Timothy 4:8 says, “Physical training is of some value but godliness has value for all things in this life and the life to come.” While I believe the therapy is crucial for the best possible care of my body, it’s no longer my primary focus or how I spend all my energy. One of the main reasons I wanted to share my progress video in “Remembering the distance traveled” was because questions about physical progress are what I get more than anything. What am I supposed to tell people if there has not been any recent improvement? Sometimes I feel like the spotlight is on me and not being able to report anything reflects a fault of my own, as if somehow it’s my responsibility that my spinal cord is currently not yet relaying the signals from my brain to the rest of my body.

If at the end of each day I took inventory on physical progress and based my mood and attitude on new improvements, I would be very depressed. Thankfully, that’s no longer at the top of my priority list. There are more important aspects of this journey to focus on and share. Instead, I want to remain intentional about seeking the Healer rather than just the healing, because everything that Jesus offers far outweighs the second chance I believe I will have to walk again.

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13 thoughts on “Seeking the Healer

  1. Ryan,
    You share your story so eloquently and I just so appreciate your introspection. May the Healer be visible to you today and every day. Blessings, Anne

  2. Ryan – thanks for your incredible transparency and wisdom! You are an awesome example of a willing servant of the Lord. Thanks for allowing us to share in your journey and learn from your experiences.

  3. “questions about physical progress are what I get more than anything. What am I supposed to tell people if there has not been any recent improvement? Sometimes I feel like the spotlight is on me and not being able to report anything reflects a fault of my own, as if somehow it’s my responsibility that my spinal cord is currently not yet relaying the signals from my brain to the rest of my body.”

    I totally understand you! It feels like is our fault we don’t progress!

  4. Ryan,
    Your blog is inspiring. This post speaks deeply to me. The learning about seeking the Healer was / is one of my life messages. You say it so well. Love, Mrs. Woelk

  5. Ryan,
    You are a Blessing to your friends and your family. Thank you for using your gifts and talents to share with the world your important story. Keep writing, we have faith that God’s grace will continue to encourage and guide you. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9
    You are always in our prayers. Norm, Sally, John and Thomas Barnhart

  6. Proud of you Ryan…for your bravery and honesty and hard work and for being a wonderful friend and inspiration to Josh who is your friend for life :)) love, Lois and Marty Kramer

  7. Want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans. A statement that speaks volumes. Thank you for sharing your life with us through your words. You have a gift of effective and powerful communication and I am glad you are allowing God to use you in such a way.

  8. “I want to remain intentional about seeking the Healer rather than just the healing”… What I wouldn’t give to have every follower of Jesus be in the exact same place. Thank you for building into us.

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