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?

  1. Randy Sprague said:

    I’m so glad to have your perspective on that other situation. It came out in the local news the day after you were covered on TV. Such a contrast of life views and I didn’t hear any commentary on the contrasts.

    I’ve tried to keep the perspective on the brevity of life. Psalm 90:12 has been a constant reminder: So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom. Same with Psalm 39:4 “Lord, make me to know my end
    And what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am.”

    Keep up the great posts and following the One who makes these brief years meaningful.


  2. Kathleen F said:

    Ryan, thank you for another wonderful post. As I read each one you write all I can say is “wow” this guy is gifted. ” Your thoughts and perspectives offer so much.


  3. Randy Brunk said:

    You have earned the right to say what you said Ryan and that makes it all the more impactful. You have endured the “forced” constraints on your ability to always be living in a future moment instead of the one you are in. It is so common for us to always be looking forward to the next event, vacation, weekend, phase of life, etc. and not realizing life is happening now…lot’s of Jelly Beans simply thrown away! At the root, it is discontentment. I must confess, I fear I would be like the man who just did not want go through what you have faced. I think it takes extreme courage to face it head on and see that there is a new place we can come to where living in the moment is enough and it is satisfying. You give me hope I too can capture each jelly bean and make it enough. I want my “wink of the eye” to matter like you are doing. Thanks for encouragment. Much love and deep respect for you Ryan…Randy


  4. Anne Hoffmann said:

    Your body may be paralyzed, but your spirit is definitely not! Today is my 55th birthday, and I signed up to read your blog when I saw the article on WCPO. I can’t think of a better way to start my day than reading your post. You are leaps and bounds ahead of your time, and I am grateful for people like you who help remind us to keep our priorities straight. Thanks for sharing your story; you have already made a difference.


  5. Lynn shidler said:

    Thanks Ryan! As usual, you having me thinking about what is important in my life.


  6. Karen Simpson said:

    Your jelly beans are well-spent, Ryan. What a blessing you are!


  7. Margaret said:

    Dear Ryan, we are from The Western Isles of Scotland, and have been following your story since we heard about you from mutual friends in Cincinnati. Your posts are wonderful, inspirational. Keep up your great blog!


  8. Chris said:

    Thank you, Ryan. May God continue to bless and guide you on your incredible journey! 🙂


  9. lisamarieluccioni said:

    Video was a powerful visual support, Ryan. I watched before I went to a work meeting.

    The “vapor” reference is one of my favorites. We are ephemeral, transitory, and passing through. Let’s have an impact while we’re here.

    Much love and joy to you, Ryan. Please give parents my best.




  10. Judy Cox said:

    It is obvious to me that God wanted you here on this earth for awhile longer, Ryan. Your ministry to us is profound. Your post has really made me think about re-focusing my time to be more filled with doing something, that means something to somebody, for eternity…that will mean salvation and heaven (everything) a hundred years from now. Bless you.


  11. Dwight Perry said:

    Quote: “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.”

    Me too.


  12. Love the Video Ryan and I love looking forward to these every week on Wednesday to power me through the rest of the week! I also bought Timothy Keller’s book, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, and it arrived yesterday. Thanks for bringing it up last week and I look forward to reflecting on it!


  13. Marlene Sims said:

    I love the video and your meeage. I will share this with many people today. God bless you and thanks for sharing your message.


  14. Lisa from Westchester said:

    Ryan, I have only recently started reading your blog and you are a true inspiration to me and others. I had read the story even before I started following your blog about the man who did not want to live after his injury following from a tree. He is missing so much. To be his wife and know that he will never meet his child or be with her while the child grows up. I have disbelief that he would make that decision and maybe even selfish on his part. I enjoy reading your comments and look forward to reading your blog. I am a silent follower:) I may not type much or say much but know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. You have a special journey…..may God lead you to do great things….


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