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Every Life is Redeemable

Looking back on his childhood, Ryan remembers his father’s struggle with alcoholism…the emotional and physical abuse he endured at home…and the fear he felt, that led him to a life of running.

“I recall kind of hiding a lot. Whether it was just hiding behind some persona of humor that I made up, or literally hiding uh under furniture or behind furniture. [I would] run away from my house. I would be outside till all hours, uh, because I didn't feel safe, and I didn't want to be at home.”

As a teenager, drugs, alcohol and partying became his release. He eventually dropped out of high school.  In 2001, on the night he would have graduated, he was arrested for driving under the influence at the age of 18.

Soon after, he received his first felony charge for stealing a motorcycle. While out on bail he was at an underage drinking party when a fight broke out and police were called to the scene. It was his first of many arrests by officer Wendell Metzler.

“I saw him hiding behind a bush,” Metzler said.

“And I ended up running from him and getting into a fight with him and assaulting him. So I got a felony, aggravated assault on a police officer.”

“If there was trouble, he was usually the guy behind it.”

In 2002, Ryan was arrested several times for disorderly conduct, fighting, and marijuana possession.  Then, in 2003 he served time for driving under the influence and leading police on a high-speed chase.  Surrounded by chaos, he felt empty inside.

“One of the major things that I thought I was missing, missing out on, was love. But not just love as an abstract idea, but love in the sense of, you know, a loving father.”

Ryan remembered saying the salvation prayer and asking Jesus into his heart when he was a little boy. During his prison sentences he would re-connect with God…but he’d return to his old ways.

“In that place where I didn't feel any value, in a prison cell, God continued to faithfully reach out to me and love on me, and eventually something started to change inside, and I realized that I was valuable, and that I was worth something to Him. When I was released I found myself caught up with the old friends uh, people, places and things. I didn’t have a church family and I wound up back on drugs.
In 2004, he faced-off with Officer Wendell again and rammed his police car during a high-speed chase. He was arrested and sentenced to a year in prison. After being released, he binged on cocaine and prescription pills for six months.  

“I remember thinking, ‘I have no hope at all for a better life. I have no hope of ever owning a home, ever having a family, ever having children.’ And I really felt like taking my life.”

Ryan was alone, and crying when a familiar presence surrounded him.

“I felt the love of God enter in and capture my heart again. I felt totally valued and loved and held. And that's when I knew like, okay, God, you got me.  I've tried so many ways to do it myself but I'm going to let you do it and I surrendered to Him.”

He called his probation officer, confessed about his drug use, and began a Christian transition program.   

Ryan stopped running and began to right his wrongs, starting with Officer Wendell.

“And he was willing to talk to me. And I just took responsibility for my actions and apologized.”

“The power of forgiveness, it exists and, you know, if you're at odds with someone and you let that fester, you could be missing out on one of the best opportunities of your life.

Wendell began inviting Ryan over for dinner with his family and today, the two have a special bond.

“My relationship with Wendell is awesome. He's one of my best friends. So, he was the best man at my wedding. We hang out often. We encourage one another, we call one another, we pray for one another. That's my brother.”

“One thing it's taught me is every life is redeemable. We had kind of predicted that Ryan wouldn't be alive by age 23, because of the lifestyle that he was living. And to become the man that he is today, fixing the cycle in his family where he's a good father now, a good husband. It’s just remarkable.”

He has earned two bachelor degrees and works at the prison, where he once served time. Ryan found the love he was searching for and gained more than he ever expected.

“The wonderful, wonderful life that God has blessed me with, that He has given me, his grace and His mercy.  I get emotional because He's a good, good Father, and His character is good. And He loves his son. And I'm happy that He does.”

Check out Ryan and Officer Metzler's ministry, The Unchained Ministries, and follow them on Facebook. Email them at unchained.forbes@gmail.com.


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