I grew up in a church family. I attended regularly throughout my childhood and teenage years. I was baptized as an infant, and later confirmed into the Lutheran church in my early teens. My parents were instrumental in teaching me about God and Christ, and always instilled the practical aspects of faith for daily living.
While I was always aware of God, and knew the teachings of the Bible, I never really had the relationship with him that I knew I should be cultivating. In retrospect, I think that perhaps life never showed me just how much I need Him. As I came into adulthood, not having a personal relationship with Christ made it easy for me to begin to question His purpose in my life and to feel like life was my journey that I was equipped to deal with independently. In my twenties, I became busy with life; certainly too busy for Him, as I worked, earned my degree, dated, cultivated friendships, and distracted myself with frivolous pursuits. I thought I was building the life that I wanted.
As I became more interested in myself, and more driven by my own ego and pleasure, I began to completely disregard God’s will for my life and ignored everything that would bring me closer to him, including the wisdom of my parents and my wife. It’s hard for me to say this now, but I began to question that the Lord had a place in my life at all. I was certainly not willing to bend to it if it did exist. In shunning Him, I began a slide that took me to depths that strained all of my relationships and made me question everything about myself.
In the last 8 years, I’ve filled my life with all of the trappings of modern existence. I was constantly in pursuit of one false idol after another. They all lead to emptiness and despair. Being constantly unfulfilled, and with all of the stresses of life, despite what appeared to be a successful business, wonderful family life, and a world of opportunity and promise, I suffered from bouts of depression and anxiety. I was always too proud to deal with them, and as they subsided, I never took time to examine my life and why I was never happy. As I time went on, I became unable to cope with daily things, and began to feel like I had no anchor and no direction. I was completely lost.
In an effort to change my circumstances, and become happy, I made a terrible decision and separated from my wife. She was the woman I loved, the mother of my children, and the person who had been the most positive influence on my life since I had come to know her 10 years prior. I know now that this was God’s plan for me. I had to clear the slate to find him.
Almost immediately after my wife and I separated, I realized that nothing was better for me. In fact, thing became far worse. I began to suffer physically, losing 20 lbs. and became a shell of my former self in all other aspects. I lost the ability to function at work and withdrew from everyone as I became more hopeless.
On February 25th of this year, as I sat alone in my apartment and estranged from my family, I began to cry. I remembered all of the people who had loved me and still did. Most importantly, I remembered God. I spent that night alone with Him, unloading myself and asking for forgiveness for all of my pride and mistakes….everything I had misjudged and done improperly or with the wrong intentions. I asked him for guidance and strength to find my way back to my life and my family. I had finally realized after all of these years, that I could no longer do life without him. I prayed for hours and began the relationship that I am ready to affirm in public (today in baptism).
Without God’s daily presence in my life now, I don’t know where I would be. What I do know, and what many who know me can attest, is that I am different in Him. With his power I have transformed in my thinking, and doing. I have defeated my issues regarding happiness and contentment. I have learned to be the father I have always wanted to be but struggled with. I have become a better husband and began to repair the damage to the relationship I have with my wife. Walking with God has helped me to love and give with the right motivations, and to build and rekindle relationships with strong Christian men and women who I learn from and hopefully give back to.
Because I opened my heart to God and let him back in, I will always look at 2011 as the year in which I gained my life. I realize now that I am never alone, and with Him, I am always taken care of and given my needs regardless of my circumstance or the mountain I have to climb. He has a plan for me and I am happy to know that all I have to do is be patient and look to him.
There is one verse that I have looked to many times on this journey and would like to share: ‘But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.’-Isaiah 40:31.
(Ryan’s story was shared before his baptism on November 27, 2011 at new Venture Christian Church)