RYAN ATKINS '07, as featured in the recent 2020 Edition of the Eagle’s Eye
We recently caught up with alum Ryan Atkins ’07. Here’s what he had to share…
At age twenty-one, I felt as if I was on top of the world. Full ride scholarship. Well-paying job. An abundance of opportunities right before my eyes. I was living my dreams and preparing for a future of success that, in my eyes, seemed all but inevitable.
However, a freak car accident brought all of my best laid plans to a screeching halt when my body became paralyzed below the shoulders. Without the use of my arms and legs, I found myself struggling to grasp just how fundamentally my life had changed.
The following years included a long road of coming to terms with my new physical limitations, redeﬁning success, falling in love, believing for a healing that seemed all but inevitable after years of prayer, signs, and dreams—and ultimately learning to trust the purpose in suffering.
Tell us about your new book and why you wrote it.
The ﬁrst few years after sustaining a spinal-cord injury were all about ensuring I had all the right answers about myself, God, and life in general. I naïvely began writing both in journal and blog form about what I imagined would be an incredibly linear path: I got hurt. I worked hard. God ﬁlled in the gaps. I got a miracle. Needless to say, I was in for a rude awakening for what would transpire in the coming years.
Upon returning home from yet another hospital stay in February 2019, I had a decision to make. As I read through the dozens of pages I had written over the years, I cringed at the thought of sharing any of it with others. For so long I simply wanted to communicate to those around me, I’m okay. I’m going to make it. There is plenty to be hopeful about. While all that is true, that in itself would be an incredibly selective representation of my story.
Rather than relay a litany of clichés and pithy statements that would likely leave others scratching their head, wondering, “Does he really believe that?” I knew I needed to include the messy stuff. The dark seasons. The doubts, the confusion, the frustrations, and the pain. I began to understand that I cannot truly be known and loved by those around me if I never actually reveal what is going on beneath the surface. I wondered, if I never step out and take a risk, will the experiences I’ve had over the past decade have been a waste? I decided to not take that chance.
That is precisely why I wrote this book. To bear witness to the fact that hope is possible, no matter the circumstances. Ultimately, this book was never about me. My story merely provides an illustration, hopefully pointing you to the bigger picture of how every attempt to find meaning apart from God will ultimately prove fruitless. Of how life on earth is incredibly temporary, while eternity will stretch on forever.
I am excited to share this story with others and truly believe the framework I lay out makes it possible to have hope no matter what our circumstances are. We all can live lives of meaning and purpose despite the battles we may face. Joy and excitement for the future is possible even if we do not yet feel completely fulfilled.
What is in this for the reader?
At the heart of this story are universal truths. This is a journey of discovering how to live a meaningful life, learning to adjust to life’s curveballs, and focusing on lasting hope in the wake of profound disappointment.
More than a story of triumph over tragedy, I believe the book offers life-lessons and insights gained in the crucible of trial which can help readers not only endure prolonged pain and disappointment in their own lives, but find the perspective and strength to pick up the pieces of their own tragedies and choose a life of faith, purpose, and hope.
If you have ever felt the rug pulled out from under you, watched your dreams crumble before your eyes, or even just wondered if there’s more to life than scrambling for status, comfort, or pleasure, I believe this is a message that can help remind us all of what matters most—in this life and the next.
Did you really meet your wife in elementary school at CHCA? Stephanie and I were in Mrs. Romer’s second grade class in 1996-1997. However, we did not see each other again until I returned home from the hospital in 2010 when she came on board as a massage therapist. One of the coolest moments came when she brought over a project she found from elementary school with a picture of the two of us on it. Below the prompt, “What I learned about the Bible and following Jesus”, many years ago she had written the words, “I learned that God did many miracles. I like the one of the paralyzed man the most.”
A couple years after reconnecting, we began dating and were married in 2016. Getting to work together as a team on getting this book published has been challenging but incredibly rewarding. I write, Stephanie edits, and we continue brainstorming how to best communicate this message of hope being possible no matter what our circumstances are.
How can we learn more?
One Step Closer is now available. More information can be found here: www.RyanSAtkins.com/book.
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