Ryan found community and his calling in life, while being healed from depression
I think I fell in love with the church before I fell in love with Jesus...
I grew up going to church with my family, but I never enjoyed it until I was in the sixth grade. A friend invited me to Fuse, and, for the first time, I had fun in church. I remember asking my parents if we could go back because I loved it so much. So, my family started going to NewSpring Church.
Even though I grew up in church and went to Fuse, I didn’t experience salvation until my senior year in high school. I was a pretty good kid. I never really rebelled or anything like that, so I thought that made me a Christian.
That year I was lucky enough to have a mentor reach out to me and take me under their wing. I can remember how much they loved Jesus and wanting what they had. So I gave my life to Christ.
After high school, I went to Tri-County Technical College and did the Bridge to Clemson program. The whole time I was there, I felt like God was telling me to pursue working at NewSpring and to be part of Fuse. However, I felt like I should keep going to school because it was what everyone else was doing.
At the end of my freshman year, I was at Clemson University’s orientation, and I felt the Lord speak to me again and say that I needed to talk to my parents about what I felt called to do. He told me that it was going to be OK. So I sat my parents down and told them both I was leaving school, they thought it was a mistake at first.
This was the first time I had to make a decision where I knew, "God is telling me to do this." It sounded crazy, but I knew it was the right thing. A few years later, I stepped onto a staff role with NewSpring.
Even though the Lord was faithful in leading me to my calling, I was not immune to the hardships of life. After being on staff for a few years, I found myself depressed.
I slept and cried all the time, and I never wanted to hang out with anyone. I had no clue what was going on or why I felt the way I did. For about six months, I would work during the week and then, on the weekends, talk to absolutely no one. I felt helpless and disconnected from people, like I was misunderstood. I believed that no one could like me.
I used to think some things about God that were not necessarily true. For example, I knew I loved God, but I didn’t know how much God loved me. I knew God had a plan and a purpose for me, but I thought of myself more like a soldier than like a son. I thought that God only wanted certain things from me, like my work.
I would never have said I was depressed until I decided to try counseling and figure out what was going on. It took me a while to do this, but I finally began going to a counselor.
Over the course of about a year, God began slowly revealing who I am and who He is. He truly restored me.
I also had to learn a hard lesson about not taking my friends for granted.
When I was younger, I was immature and thought, since friendships were hard and I was introverted, that I was OK with being on my own. I did have a few good friends, but also some relationships that had fallen to the wayside. There was no bad blood; we just lost connection. I think this is common, especially in your 20s. People go their separate ways and do different things. People get married, have kids, and their lives look different.
I allowed this to make me feel like I was incapable of being a good friend because of the disconnection. God showed me that this wasn’t the case. Now I can’t imagine thinking I could ever be by myself or living my life without my friends. Learning how to receive their love, along with God’s love, has been one of the greatest things the Lord has walked me through. I feel as if God has awakened me to what matters, and I can experience Him in a new way now.
There was a lot of confidence that God had to instill in me. I struggled with comparing myself to those who were loud, outgoing, and entertaining. I thought I had to change myself to fit in, but God created me to be laid back. He showed me that it is OK to be an Enneagram 9 in a room of 3s. I remember assuming I was not going to get along with people. Now, I just assume that I can get along with anybody and find something in common.
It is hard to describe the place I was in, but it’s one of those things where you know it when you’re in it.
It felt like I was in this hole, and there was no way out. Sometimes I am scared that this terrible feeling of depression and disconnection will come back. When I notice I’m feeling this way again, my first inclination is to pray. Praying and trusting in God is what got me through all of this, and it is what I will keep going back to.
Believing I am loved by God and knowing who I am in Him overflows into my relationships with other people, which leads to a deeper understanding of others’ love for me and grows my empathy and connection to them. Because of God, I am fully rescued and fully restored.