My #1 New Years resolution

I sat in my wheelchair behind the back pew at church. I was desperate. Nearly a year had gone by since the accident and the physical progress I was sure I would have gained by now was nowhere to be seen. I was still paralyzed and the idea that I would not be working my way out of my chair on my own was beginning to creep into my head.

The pastor’s message that day was infiltrated with somewhat familiar healing stories from the Bible; a book I held in no more esteem than a textbook. It sounded nice, especially considering my current condition, but a connection seemed to be missing. I had not fully bought in. A pastor telling me what “God said in the Bible” wasn’t going to cut it anymore. It was time I looked into it for myself.

My voice software assisted the start of my investigation
My voice software assisted the start of my investigation

It started out of desperation. As I began to grasp the fact that I could not heal myself, I figured my best bet would be investigating the biography of the one person I knew of who made a habit of healing the paralyzed: Jesus. Pulling on my inner archaeologist, I would dig into the Bible a bit deeper each day before I would find something else pushing back at me that I either didn’t like, was confused by, or was flat out frustrating. I would wrestle with elements Jesus addresses such as the supernatural realm, the standard for sexuality, the questions of suffering, and the startling realities of heaven and hell.

The deeper I dug, the more resistance I faced; yet I felt I was onto something
The deeper I dug, the more resistance I faced; yet I felt I was onto something

While my initial posture was, “What can you do for me?” Jesus met me right where I was. God used my paralysis and the story of healing the paralytic (click here for the story) to draw me in to his Word. Before long, the Bible was no longer a recipe book to cook up my healing formula. It had become 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 and I was now on a journey to encounter the author Himself.

Here are three main themes that got me hooked:

Authoritative: It claims to be written by God (2 Timothy 3:16.) This statement alone did not convince me of its authority, but it sure made me take a closer look. It was either ludicrous or the most powerful piece of literature on the planet. There could be no in-between.

Controversial: In John 14:6 Jesus states, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Statements of boldness such as this do not fly in our politically correct crazed culture. Could there ever have been a more offensive claim? As I was reading, I was drawn to how Jesus would not mince words. He did not leave open the opportunity for me to sit on the fence.

Comforting: Psalm 119:92: “If you Word had not been my delight, I would’ve perished in my affliction.” Each time anxiety builds and I start to worry about what’s ahead, I can sift through the pages of Scripture and just the right words speak to me nearly every time, rooting me back into God’s truth.

piers-morgan

I saw an interview on CNN recently in which Piers Morgan suggested we bring the Bible “kicking and screaming” into the 21st century to be up with the times in our culture. Some may agree with his stance while others classify the book as sheer fairytale. Then there are those who take it as rock solid truth. I have come to find myself in the last camp over time, but what about you?

With each new year I set out certain reading goals. One discipline I have taken up has been reading through the New Testament each year. With an email sent containing just a few minutes a day of reading, I get one more way to hear directly from the living God every day. You can join me on this adventure this coming year: Click here to sign up

I’m no Bible scholar. I’m just a messed up guy who has discovered purpose and meaning unlike anything I’ve ever known while sifting through the words that God has put into text. While I initially took a disciplined approach with a trace of skepticism to examine its validity, now I can’t fathom a day without soaking up even just a few words. Everything begins to slow down. Problems seem to get smaller. Worries dissipate. Peace sets in. Passion for the day ahead reignites. I regain clarity for my vision for the future. I firmly believe you can have a similar experience. God promises that when we seek Him, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). Join me today on this journey for the new year.

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What are you going to do with the time you have left?

I read an article on CNN this past week about a man who was left paralyzed after falling 16 feet. He was faced with a decision to make after learning from doctors that his chances of full recovery were slim to none. Did he want to continue on living when odds were that he would not regain his mobility? His decision was an emphatic no, and he asked doctors to disconnect him from the ventilator. He died at the age of 32, leaving behind a wife who was pregnant with his child.

His wife spoke to the root reason behind his decision: “The last thing he wanted was to be in a wheelchair. The quality of life would have been very poor.” There may have been more to the story than a brief news article let on, but from a surface level, I was deeply saddened by his decision.

I have been asked a similar question multiple times. People are curious as to if I would have rather died in the car accident than live in the condition I currently do. I touched on the answer to this in “The fleeting nature of positive thinking,” but I would be amiss if the story did not cause me to reflect again on how thankful I am for life itself.

Grateful to be alive in the ICU just days after my accident
Grateful to be alive in the ICU just days after my accident

Over the past four years, God has been challenging me to reexamine my priorities and, consequently, has gradually reshaped my view on what denotes a “good quality of life.” That begs the question: What am I going to do with the time I have left?

Being forced to slow down from the business of the nonstop college life as I knew it has caused me to ask questions and reevaluate how I’m allocating my time. After taking inventory on how I spend my time and what I allow to consume my thoughts, there are certain aspects that I can point to and wonder: Does this really matter?

I am challenged by Matthew Kelly’s statement on the topic in The Rhythm of Life: “What are we all too busy doing? For the most part, we are too busy doing just about everything, that means just about nothing, to just about nobody, just about anywhere…and will mean even less to anyone a hundred years from now.”

My time left on this earth is limited, regardless of how much of that time will be spent in a wheelchair. Many times I get frustrated at the amount of time taken away from my days simply because of paralysis. On top of being incredibly humbling, having someone assist me with getting out of bed, showering, getting dressed, and eating breakfast seems to take an eternity compared to doing the same at 21-years-old in my fraternity house on the way to class. With less hours to leverage each day, it is often tempting to make excuses for not making good use of the time I do have.

Jonathan Edwards, a pastor from the 1700s, came up with 70 resolutions for living life effectively. One that sticks out to me is: “Resolved, never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.” Talk about a man with a plan for efficiency.

I wonder how profitable the time Edwards spent on his hair was
I wonder how profitable the time Jonathan Edwards spent on his hair was

Edwards’ objective may seem extreme, but the more I realize how limited my time here is, the more practical this advice seems. When I look to the Bible, I see time and time again references to how fleeting this world is. My life is portrayed as “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14). I’m reminded that the time is short, this world is passing away, and I am to live always consciously with that in mind (See 1 Corinthians 7:29 – 31).

Paralyzed or not, I want to take advantage of every moment I have now. I don’t want to just sit around accepting my circumstance, letting the days idly pass by as if to say, “Looks like I had bad luck in this life. Hopefully the time speeds up so I can just hurry up to heaven.” Instead, I want to invest in life-giving relationships, learn more about the world around me, leave an impact that continues beyond my last breath, and experience God’s kingdom on earth as much as possible before I meet him face-to-face in heaven having run the race of life to the fullest. In doing so, I believe I will find deeper meaning in the days ahead, as I’ve learned “quality of life” does not have to depend on physical capabilities.

This video breaks down how our time is spent, and ends with an incredible challenge:

Donald Miller, author of A Million Miles in A Thousand Years, a narrative that has challenged me to live a better story with the time I have, said, “Our lives have a countdown clock that we can’t see. Mine reminds me to only do what matters”. I am thankful that my life did not end in a car accident or in the days thereafter, and thus, my countdown has not completed, but I know that the clock is ticking. How will I spend the time I have left?

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To check out the latest video update: Click here

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To follow Ryan’s journey via e-mail, click “follow” at the top of the page