What Does It Mean to be Truly Human?

At 25 years old, I’m not exactly in the position I envisioned for myself back when I was a narrowly focused 21-year-old ready to take the world by storm. Let’s just say life got in the way. Very quickly. A life-changing car accident that resulted in paralysis below the shoulders stopped my story as I knew it. On a dime. In the four years since, I’ve been on a journey hard to put into words. Incredible. Eye-opening. Frustrating. Rewarding. Humbling. Empowering. It would be tough to put my finger on it at any given moment, so I never really have, aside from documenting the journey in the solitude of my computer through my voice software. Sure, I’ve gotten to share my story over the past few years: speaking to groups, schools, and churches on numerous occasions; but it became fairly easy to hide what was really going on beneath the surface, behind a dramatic replay of a graphic car accident and a few Bible verses to make the crowd feel good.

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I keep tabs on the blogs of a few close friends. One focuses on social justice, one on life in seminary, one on great beer, and another on sports. Each are interesting in their own way, but the other day I came across a blog that really got to me from another guy who also has a spinal cord injury. I could not believe his vulnerability. As I sifted through his writing, I could not help but wonder, “Did he really just put that out in cyberspace?” I knew exactly how he felt and what he was thinking, but in my innermost being I felt it most socially acceptable in the name of “masculinity” to hide behind the facade that I was never fazed by my current physical condition.

About 10 years ago, Craig Gross came to my high school to talk about “the number one Christian porn site on the Internet”  (yes it is suitable to open at work). There was something that really drew me to the guy. The dude was as transparent as I’ve ever seen someone. He describes this critical attribute of vulnerability in his new book “Open“. Throughout the book Gross stresses how necessary it is for each of us as  human beings to be open with others in community. (Sounds like I read the book right? I didn’t. It just said something of that nature on the back cover. Somewhere my high school English teacher Ms. Barron is cringing.)

As my dad churned out devotional-worthy CaringBridge updates throughout my four-month stay in the hospital, my skin crawled as my motionless body laid still in the hospital bed. Even if it was simply generic content shared with family and friends, I would be wary of the idea of my day-to-day happenings being broadcast to the cyberspace world. On numerous occasions, both before and after the accident, friends have called me out for being a “closed book”.Locked book Staying mysterious about what’s going on in my head, and life for that matter, had become my M.O. However, over time, something just wasn’t sitting right. I guess I was missing out on a key element of human interaction described by CS Lewis:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, then you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your own selfishness. But in that casket safe, dark, motionless and airless, it will change. It won’t be broken; but it will become unbreakable, impenetrable and irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” 

Jefferson Bethke has quickly become a favorite spoken word artist of mine. His raw “Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus” YouTube video is what gained him notoriety with 25 million + views. However it was his recent video, “What Does It Mean to be Truly Human?” that sped along my thinking that being brutally honest with those around me actually isn’t that bad of an idea.

Jefferson says, “To be truly human is to be truly known, and someone who hides can’t be known.” It looks like I’ve been hiding. I guess it’s my turn. Time to open up. So here it goes…

What initially began on November 20, 2009 as what I believed would be a brief pit stop from the life I was accustomed to, transformed into a journey in which my world was turned upside down forever. I think it’s about time to let others in on my journey of being Flat on My Back.

  1. Mr. McCollum said:

    I am excited to see what God continues to do in and through you.
    Prayers continue! Stay Strong!!
    Joshua 1:9


  2. Ryan we are so blessed to have you as a powerful Influence in our son’s life. Teenagers crave authenticity and can sniff out the hidden dark places because for many of them being truly known is the scariest thing they can imagine . By being vulnerable you will model the way for them. I pray that being open will not only be a way of letting things out but will most importantly be a pathway for letting love in. I pray for your physical healing every day . Spiritually you are more vital and healthy than the majority of us . Peace , Pamela


  3. Great entry! I’m very happy that you started writing. You will open peoples eyes into the world that we live in. Having a blog is a very rewarding experience. Don’t hold anything back! I will definitely continue to follow your story. I’m sure that you have a lot to share and I bet people have been waiting to hear it for a long time.

    Make sure you download the WordPress app. You can check statistics and it will notify you when people comment on your blog. You can also update your blog through the app.


  4. Jen Luckett said:

    Love it. I was just talking to a friend about this very topic–the truth sets us free. My family adores you (well, they like Laura alot too…lol)…we truly are blessed to call you friend. Phil 1:3 We thank God for you. Love the blog-keep up the good work my friend-Jen


  5. Karen Woelk said:

    We are blessed to call you friend. Looking forward to following your blog. With Raised Hands, Karen


  6. Dave Furniss said:

    Ryan I am so Blessed to have you in my life and am privileged to share this life journey with you. You are an amazing young Man I think this fantastic ….. God is going to continue to do amazing things through you and I want to hear every word:)


  7. Jesseca said:


    Thank you for starting this blog. I look forward to reading about your journey. I have no doubt it will be an inspiring, troubling, fascinating, moving, and humbling read.



  8. Ryan, excellent post. Being vulnerable is hard, but rewarding thing to do.



  9. Cart Hall said:

    Awesome stuff man.

    Go Bearcats.


  10. Chris and Terry Rehard said:

    Powerful entry. My heart still drops when I think of that night. We continue to pray for you every day. Stay strong. Chris and Terry


  11. Claudia krisjanis said:

    I look forward to reading the next one. I think i am going to learn so much. Thank you for your courage to share with everyone.


  12. Sherry Angelo said:

    Hi Ryan, I believe for your physical healing! I remember meeting you last September 22, 2012 at a mtg at your house where Peb was teaching on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. We were praying over you and you lifted your right arm straight up into the air when the Holy Spirit took authority over your flesh. The Lord showed me that day – where does our help come from? Our help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. May you walk in his help and may it be that your whole body is fully restored through the authority of the Holy Spirit who lives in you. Love, Sherry


  13. Jill Kandell said:

    Wow! You are inspiring! Looking forward to reading the next one … you have a way with words that will touch many.


  14. Sally Barnhart said:


    You are in our thoughts and prayers daily. Thank you for continuing to share your story. We will continue to pray for you and your special family. Your courage is an inspiration to all of us.

    We love you. Norm, Sally, John and Thomas Barnhart


  15. Norm Miller said:

    Ryan. Thanks for starting this. I feel somewhat of an outsider to the loving friends who pray to God or believe in the Holy Spirit. I don’t but I’d like to believe in miracles. My faith is mostly in people like your father and mother and the doctors and scientists. I believe our science is always improving and that your family’s decisions have and will help maximize whatever is possible. I do believe in healing and in new growth and if only we knew more how to use stem cells and re-wire the vertebrae. I believe all this is possible and that we don’t know the future. But I also know that glacial speed progress sucks and that attitude matters a great deal and that we want to know what might be better understood in the next few decades sooner than that. I look forward to understanding what none of us but you can really comprehend. I very much want to believe in miracles. Norm


  16. Jay Payne said:


    Please keep this going with the same amount of energy and devotion to spreading your messages. You have changed my life, I want to learn more.



  17. Derrick Colyer said:

    Powerful words so far Ryan. Your courage to open up is truly inspirational. I’m excited to read more!


  18. Hey Ryan,

    I have been reading through your blog entries now that I know you have a blog! I want to encourage you to continue to write. The way in which you portray a thought or situation is art… it’s a gift! The other thing is about “being vulnerable”. Yikes! For me, right now, I am pretty much petrified to be vulnerable as my heart has been crushed and I am still trying to mend it. I however, by NO means, want to become hard-hearted. I thought ‘I am TOO sensitive’ because I cry easily and FOR others, as if they are no able to cry or something, but I FEEL FOR THEM. I thought it was a negative / unhealthy trait. I am not 100% sure, but I think that it is how God made me – sensitive. I just shut it down because I was called a ‘cry baby’.

    There is so much mumbo-jumbo floating around in a Dr. Phil-ish manner about ‘life’. I think it just makes our heads spin. I have tried THAT route for a long time. It does not work! I am not kidding. I started getting Psychology Today when I was a teenager.

    God has bonked me on the head! I needed it as I was trying to ‘figure out’ people, life, and especially healing. I repeatedly (over the years) have heard “relinquish your need to understand”. We were created by, we love, and we serve an amazingly creative, outrageously powerful, mind-boggling God – Jesus Christ. Even the smartest of people cannot figure out even an iota of TRUTH that will stand the test of time. I am just writing off the cuff here. I call it my ‘stream of consciousness’ style of writing.

    So, what is my point? Let me see if I can make one. I have learned to entrust my heart with people who ‘get it’… who are COMPASSIONATE and are going to be IN MY LIFE. I have been let down by good friends, who honestly just didn’t have that ability or that gift of mercy and compassion. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve even still. I am a work in process. I fully believe that you have an incredible opportunity along with the talent to encourage, connect with, and be an encouragement to a whole host of people who you would have otherwise never encountered. You have an opportunity to talk about JESUS and all that He has done in your life and through your life – authentically. You have an opportunity to SAVE SOULS!!!

    I am so glad that our paths have crossed! Keep writing and inspiring! I hope that blogging brings you immense joy… you were born to write… to be an evangelist… to be an amazing example of what it truly means to follow Christ when the rubber meets the road!!

    The best is yet to come!

    God bless you, friend!


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