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?”

  1. Karen Woelk said:

    Once again, your shared words cause inward reflection and prayerfully a purer devotion. I am going to share. Thank you!


  2. Virginia Wilson said:

    Ryan, your words as usual cause me to dig in and look and cry. On this topic it is honestly not as though I have to search too long. “The inner athlete” struck me, because that is “who” I was. That is what defined me more than I ever imagined. I was just a natural athlete. It was as though everything I attempted, I was just good at it (not bragging). When I was in my young 20’s I was ‘taken out’ and I kept thinking I was just ‘hurt’ not ‘injured’. I had been playing softball, volleyball, swimming, and training on my own time. I was ‘in my element’ or so I thought. As time has gone on the phrase that has continually come back to me is “Once again, I have to re-define myself”. No kidding. An athlete was so ingrained as WHO I was. Perhaps that and being pretty intelligent. I can remember when I was moving from a home I owned and loved, but could not longer afford because of the toll this disease was taking on my body and my inability to work full-time. THAT was a big eye opener and felt like a great loss. I decided that was a good time to take down the ‘throne’ to myself – the inner athlete. I threw away all of the ribbons, letters, awards, trophies that celebrated ‘that person’ who was essentially dead. And did those items honestly mean anything once I was out in the ‘real world’?

    I have been on this perpetual journey of ‘re-defining’ who I am over the last 22 years with the ebb and flow of the disease. Of course, as I reflect on this I am just sobbing. What makes it difficult is people look at me (even people who have known me forever) think that I am just fine or perhaps just think I am just loopy.

    On one of my really tough days, I had a revelation while talking to my twin sister. I said ‘THIS is truly SATAN IN THE FLESH! It has robbed, stolen from, and killed pieces of me’.

    There is no thing on my throne. There is nobody on my throne. NOTHING / NO ONE can truly SUSTAIN YOU when the rubber meets the road. Oh sure, maybe there is someone who will help you to have a good day. However the ONLY ONE worthy of being on my altar of attention, praise, energy, focus is Jesus Christ. I STAND on HIS word… the truth. HE is the ONLY WAY.

    Still learning who I am as a daughter of the King, his beloved one. So, I do what I can to bring HIM glory. I photograph in hopes of having people APPRECIATE the beauty of HIS creation. I still ‘wrestle’ with the ‘inner athlete’ though, I must admit.

    Everyone has a story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sue said:

      Beautifully communicated sentiments. Your words “the ONLY ONE worthy of being on my altar of attention, praise, energy, and focus is JESUS CHRIST.” AMEN and AMEN! Bless you.


  3. Ryan,

    I am overwhelmed by the depth of your commentary and anointing. You are a real blessings – I’m, sure far beyond what you realize.

    Tom Rattray – Healing Rooms

    Liked by 1 person

  4. lisamarieluccioni said:

    Ryan. Wonderful post. Somehow…you always seem to know exactly what I need to read.

    I’m still reading. Will continue.


    lml ________________________________________


  5. Kyle Quinn said:

    Ryan: Your posts have balance. Easy to read. Thought-provoking. Great integration of personal testament, media, and lesson. I look forward to reading them weekly. Have a blessed holiday season.


  6. Judy Cox said:

    Thank you, Ryan. We constantly need to be reminded to keep Jesus, and only him, on the throne.


  7. Sue said:

    Great blog. Thanks, Ryan for your faithfulness to ponder, reflect, and articulate deep truths in such honest, thought-provoking ways. Your life, your offering, is impacting lives.
    Bless you, dear bro!


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