Ryan was the other side of this APUSH triumvirate. I also met him Junior year. The difference with Ryan was that Junior year was his first year at our school. Prior to that he had spent his time at a local public school but made the transition for his remaining two years. Transfer students that late in the high school cycle, especially into small private schools, tend to just float along and aim to just graduate. It is hard to break into a social class that has already been firmly established for years–there were some groups that had grown up since kindergarten together. Since I already had a close group of friends, I was not really looking for any new additions, but APUSH changed that.
If Ryan were telling you this story, he would say that our friendship started with me turning around and inviting him to come over to my house to jam on guitars. This is funny looking back for two reasons: I rarely play guitar now and he is an unbelievable guitar player. He must have known going into it he was going to blow me away; I, on the other hand, had no idea. To be honest, I do not even remember that conversation taking place. That does not mean it did not, it is just that kind of extrovert invitation is not normal for me.
We jammed a couple times, hung out in class, and eventually he started playing guitar for Axis on Wednesdays. I got to see him more and more and really got to know him more and more. He was part of a core group of guys that started a ritual of killing zombies on Xbox together about once a month. We would meet up at my house, drag the TV upstairs from the basement, hook up two Xboxes, and play until the wee hours of the morning then crash until the afternoon. Those were some of the fondest memories I had in high school, and Ryan was at the center of all of them.
Like I mentioned before, Ryan, Jonathan, and I were, and still are, really close friends. While Jonathan and Ryan shared running as a common interest, I could not really tell you what role I played in our triangle friendship. There was just something that held us together then. Looking back, I believe it was Ryan who held us together. The reason was not because he was a super-Christian juggernaut or hyper-extrovert friend; he was genuine. Granted, being the sole extrovert in a group of introverts does tend to effectively bring people together, but his down-to-earth, relational personality really connected the three of us. It would have been easy for Ryan to give up on me, but he fought for the friendship and took the risk to establishing a friendship with someone who was different than he was.
That is because Ryan is a warrior.
Besides from the fact he is one of the strongest guys I know, he contends with you in every area of life. It has been a quality about him I have seen him discover about himself over the years. He grew up under some economically rough circumstances at home, but that did not keep him from pursuing a career in engineering and aspiring to help provide for his parents one day. He was nearly as fast as Jonathan in cross country in high school, but that did not keep him from working his hardest to be the best that he could be. Even recently, he and his former girlfriend went through a really rough time, but that did not keep him from fighting to fix the relationship. He also realized his priorities have been out of balance, and instead of continuing to live through his flesh and ignoring the problems, he has taken them head on and God has been shaping him more and more into the man He wants Ryan to be.
And I have been blessed to have had a front row seat to see all of this.
Ryan never gives up. He is always looking for another solution, another way to solve the problem, or another way approach the situation. I think it is the analytical, engineering mind that is always looking to maximize efficiency in order to gain the greatest return on the inputs. He always pushes me to examine the situation from another angle by posing questions and situations that make me really think what is the best in this situation. We have had some hard, honest conversations as friends, but on the other side, we both understand we are brothers are keeping each other sharpened for battle. I cannot remember a conversation of late that has not ended with praying for each other or asking what we can be in prayer for each other about. He is undoubtably a man of God who understands the war is not always physical but spiritual as well.
Ryan challenges me to always fight. He encourages me to never give up. He inspires to always look for the best way possible. These kinds of friends challenge us to follow through and become the person we know we want to be and who God created us to be. They encourage you to never give up or give in. They inspire us to push through the hard times and fight until the end.
And to think, I would have missed out on seeing a man of God continual be transformed into a warrior if that conversation had never happened.
Ryan, thank you for always pushing me both relationally and spiritually. Thank you for trusting me and sharing so many deep thoughts, stories, and insights over the years. Trust is hard to establish and easily broken. Thank you for trusting me as your brother. I continue to fight, contend, and intercede on your behalf, because I know you are doing the same for me. My prayer for you is that every day you walk closer with your Savior, every day you are transformed more and more into the man God has created you to be, and every day you begin to look more and more like Jesus to those around you. Never lose your heart for people because it drives you to that light for others. I love you like a brother and that will never change.