What’s on your throne?

One morning after pumping iron, I made a pit stop in front of the mirror on my way to the shower. I couldn’t help but turn to the side and flex my arm to see how big I could get my bicep to bulge. I was Hulk Hogan, at least in my own eyes. I fantasized about taking the world by storm in the upcoming basketball game. There’s nothing more delusional than the ego of a 16-year-old guy.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, guarding future NBA star O.J. Mayo would not be the pinnacle of my life
Unbeknownst to me at the time, guarding future NBA star O.J. Mayo would not be the pinnacle of my life

Kicking off in stride in college allowed me to see what else I could set my sights on: the business world. Through a great internship, “saving every dollar for a future of success” became my mantra. I meticulously kept tabs on my bank account each time something entered in. I was putting my hope in my mind and determination to maximize my ability to make money. My professional career was just around the corner.

Until both rugs were simultaneously ripped right out from underneath me.

With a suit and a nametag, I thought I had all I needed
With a suit and a nametag, I thought I had all I needed

Paralysis gave me the ultimate wake-up call. No longer could I rely on my own independence to accomplish the tangible success I had already experienced. Having no control over my limbs, embracing my inner athlete was no longer feasible. Every dollar I had ever earned disappeared in an instant when I was airlifted by helicopter from the side of the highway.

Something was missing and I could not pinpoint it. I knew it went well beyond my physical inability to move. I continued to look elsewhere, holding material things supreme to everything else in my life.

No matter where I looked, nothing seemed to fully satisfy. There was never any peace around decisions I made or how I spent my time and energy. I was bowing down at the altar of sports and money, among other things, and I was forced to realize I was not going to find ultimate worth in any of those places. It was time to look elsewhere.

I’ve noticed that as hard as I try, I cannot find the satisfaction I was looking for anywhere other than in the person of Jesus. Jesus makes it clear that He came to give abundant life (John 10:10) and that the peace He offers is not in the form that the world offers (John 14:27). Sports, alcohol, or Internet perusing may provide a momentary buzz or distraction from the reality I am facing but will ultimately leave me disappointed in the end. Whether it’s food, money, drugs, sex, fashion, etc., the world has a way of offering us goods that we often believe will bring ultimate satisfaction or ease the pain when, in actuality, they are so fleeting and temporary. Tim Keller refers to these empty outlets as “counterfeit gods.” In his book by the same title, he states, “Counterfeit gods if you fail them will never forgive you, and if you get them will never satisfy you…This is the only God that will: Jesus and His resurrection.”

Any time I attempt to run towards something else, I want to be reminded of this truth. In this raw, thought-provoking video, Jefferson Bethke puts it this way: “When was the last time the world promised satisfaction and actually came through?”

– –

To check out the latest video update: Click here

To connect via Facebook: Click here.

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

I don’t want to care what you think

Upon arriving home from my four month stay in the hospital in early 2010, there were a few organizations that asked permission to share about my journey. I initially thought no problem. However, after several different versions were shared, I realized I was not being perceived as I would’ve liked.

Each time I was left with a similar feeling. Were people just looking for a story? I felt as if I was constantly getting painted as this pitiful paralyzed guy who should make you feel better about your current situation, because at least you can move your limbs. Though there would be a few people who said they were encouraged by hearing my story, my mind would fixate on those who would come up to me afterward and insinuate how bad they felt for me.

Even when I had the floor in an unfiltered speaking engagement at a school or church, there was still a limited amount of time and certain questions I was supposed to answer. My skepticism began to grow toward any form of sharing my story in a public setting and I eventually decided it may be best if I was the only one with jurisdiction over what details of my life were shared.

Speaking at my high school with sister Laura
Speaking at my high school with sister Laura

That is where the blog came into play. I could say exactly what I wanted, however I wanted. No filters. No outside agendas. A computer screen in between myself and any potential negative comments. It was the perfect solution.

So when someone at Channel 9 News Cincinnati caught wind of Flat On My Back and wanted to do a story, you can guess my reaction: Thanks, but no thanks. I was not about to be part of another demeaning “feel good if you’re not paralyzed” story. Plus, how exactly would that news line up look? “A guy was shot. The store got robbed. The Bengals lost. And in other news… a guy with a spinal cord injury started a blog.”

However, something slowly began shifting in my mind with this new opportunity. I had become fixated on not wanting people to feel sorry for me, not wanting to hear negative comments, and a fear of what people would think. I began to realize that, by being so concerned with how some people may respond, I was actually doing a disservice to those who were truly seeing God in a new light through hearing my story. Why did I care so much what the others thought? Why was I so uptight about how my situation “looked” to others?

In “The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness,” Tim Keller makes it clear that this mindset will not be of much benefit to me. As defined by Keller, a “self-forgetful” person does not think any more or less of themselves than they should- they just think of themselves less. I don’t need to worry about what the take-away of others’ is from my situation. I can leave that to God’s hands. The gist of 1 Corinthians 4: 3 – 4 is this: “I don’t care what you think about me. I don’t even care what I think. All that matters is what God thinks.” Being a self-forgetful person sounds mighty freeing.

Rather than hiding, I believe it’s my job to share what God has done in my life in the midst of the trial. In order to do this, I cannot be concerned with what others think. Galatians 1:10 poses the question, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” After pondering the idea of being unconcerned with how a story would be presented, I went ahead and did the interview.

The Channel 9 team invading my house
The Channel 9 team invading my house

When it airs tonight* at 6 PM on Channel 9 (WCPO Cincinnati), I should be able to sit back and relax. I’m deciding to be unconcerned with the fact that they are editing everything I tried to get across in the interview time down to a 60 second piece and choosing their own introduction. I have no control over how people will leverage my story or how those around me will view me as a result. I once heard it said, “We owe it to the world to share what we learn in the midst of trial.” With that in mind, it further reinforces the need for me to let go of worrying about what people think and trust that God will use my story exactly how He sees fit. Most of the time it may be easier to say than truly believe, but honestly, who cares what people think?

*Blog was posted November 5, link to Channel 9 video can be found below:

– –

To check out the latest video update: Click here

To connect via Facebook: Click here.

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