Episode | June 5, 2023

Transcript for Ryan Stevenson’s the Walk Podcast

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Joshua Swanson: Welcome to The Walk, a Devotionals podcast for worshipers. Songwriter and artist Ryan Stevenson is our guest, and most of you will know him from his song In the Eye of the Storm, which sat on the billboard charts at number one for 16 weeks straight. Ryan’s success is of course impressive, but what’s most impressive is his transparency about his faith walk, and you’ll hear some of that in his personal testimony on this episode. Here we go.

Ryan Stevenson: For me, foundationally, the only way I know how to communicate the goodness of God is through my own story and what I’ve, what I’ve experienced him in, in my own personal life and my own personal walk and, uh, my life has been really interesting, and really crazy, and really unconventional. My journey has been erratic and sporadic and, uh, I’ve, it’s been years of, of holding on to, holding on by, by my fingernails, sometimes trusting like, God, are you, are you going to be here? Are you going to catch me? Are you going to come through and be here for me? And uh, and he always does. And he always is. And if there’s anything that I’ve learned at this stage in my life in my forties, it’s that he’s always good and he’s always motivated by love. 

Joshua Swanson: We’re gonna take a quick break and when we come back, Ryan dives into his family history.

Ryan Stevenson: You know, I was born and raised in a small farming community in southern Oregon. 250 people in our little farming town, and I grew up in a little country church; grew up on the hymnals. So I learned about Jesus and the love of God through the hymns. And, uh, my parents both sang in the choir. I grew up in a Christian home and the church that I grew up in that, that, you know, kind of demographic, small country town, more of a reformed religious legalistic setting.

Uh, I learned great, amazing truths about the love of Jesus, but somewhere along the way, more into junior high and high school, I feel like this other ideology about my identity in Christ and the love of God started to almost develop two different side by side ideologies where I, I trusted Jesus and Jesus loves me, this I know, and I’m okay with Jesus, but be careful with God. 

Because it was kind of explained to me that, you know, father God is more of the celestial cast iron being out in the cosmos that was mostly displeased with humanity, and he has that scowl of disappointment and so he sent Jesus to deal with my mess and to bring me back across this big chasm of separation back into this grouchy old guy’s good graces.

And I’m, you know, I’ll always still kind of be a piece of garbage, but at least I have Jesus. So just wait till you die and maybe you’ll go to heaven.

And I just, I didn’t know how to reconcile that as a young person. It was tormenting cuz I would read the, you know, I loved the Bible, I loved the word of God. And I would read them, I would read the scriptures. John 14, John 15, and John 16, all throughout the New Testament, Jesus shows up and he says things like, if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.

And it became very clear, well, Jesus is the exact embodiment, he is the exact representation of everything that God wants to, wants humanity to know about himself and his character and his nature is expressed and is embodied in the person of Jesus. And, and I, I just didn’t know that. 

And so that kind of sent that, that approach to God. I, the only way I know how to say it is that kind of gave me a performance-based approach to God. Even as a young person is like, well, I’ve, I don’t know where I stand ever. And so it sent me kind of into my adult life and a lot of people in my generation who grew up in that kind of religious environment into our adulthood, trying to be young parents and in relationships with this performance-based approach to God, where we only feel as good as our last ability to perform really well. 

And when we, nobody can live that way cuz we weren’t designed to live that way. We were not designed as sons and daughters of the king to try to always balance on this tightrope with his love on one side and his wrath on the other, and the law and the grace, and it’s just, that’s complete dysfunction. Nobody can do it because we weren’t designed to do it.

But we try, we try, especially, you know, in religion, we try really hard to live right there when we have on those legalistic glasses, and when you want, when you try to live that way, you have to work really hard all the time to protect your image. And you have to work really hard all the time to keep a lot of secrets.

And it’s exhausting. And I feel like for me personally, you know, a few years ago I just, it was like, Holy Spirit just said, “stop. You can stop and get off that treadmill right now. Um, you’re my son.” You know, second Corinthians 5, 20, 21, 22. Just to me at this, at this stage in my life as a dad, a father of three kids, and a husband of 20 years, and have been in love with the Bible and, and have walked with the Lord my entire life, I’ve seen second Corinthians five as literally the most simplest form of the gospel.

“You are the righteousness of God in Christ.” That’s who we are. That’s our identity, and I wish somebody would’ve told me that when I was 16 years old.

Joshua Swanson: We’re gonna take another quick break. When we come back, Ryan shares an intimate story about his mother’s childhood.

I wanted to give a quick shout out to Ear Trumpet Labs for providing Ryan and I with the Myrtle microphone that we use to record this episode. The Myrtle is a large diaphragm condenser mic with a spring-suspended retro styling. It’s ideal for live vocal performances or single micing of small acoustic ensembles. It has a design pedigree straight out of the thirties. In fact, I feel like I’m recording an old radio drama. Our good friend Jesse Poe, who records people like Trace Atkins and Jelly Roll and Struggle Jennings, he wrote up a review of the microphone, so check that out over at worshipleader.com.

Okay, back to Ryan to close us out.

Ryan Stevenson: You know, God is so good. He is so kind. His ways are so, so much higher than ours. He’s so brilliant in how he orchestrates our circumstances, and I got a front row seat to that as a young kid growing up with my mother. Uh, my dad, you know, my parents were married for 36 years, but my mother in particular, I’m the baby of our family.

I’m the only son. So my mom and I were super tight and my mom was adopted. She was, uh, essentially the, the product of rape, her biological father, um, her, her biological mother was raped by a gentleman who she babysat for their family. And in those days when, you know, a pregnant unwed girl was typically sent away to go into hiding, to kind of conceal any family shame.

So she, that young girl was sent away to go live with a great aunt. And she gave birth to my mother nine months later in a hospital and gave her, gave her up for adoption and there she was, she was 17 at the time. There just happened to be another family in the hospital that same night that was giving birth to their third son in a row.

All three boys had been still born, so one right after the other. And they were heartbroken and they were devastated. Um, well, the physician comes in and says, tells this lovely couple, “hey, your son’s not gonna make it, but there’s a young girl here in the hospital who just delivered a baby girl, and she’s given her up. She’s gonna leave her here. Do you want her instead?” And so they took my mom home instead.

And, Praise God that that young scared young 17 year old girl chose life and, uh, gave my mother a chance cuz I wouldn’t be here. Had not been for that young girl’s bravery and courage, um, as I was growing up, I noticed that my mom was always really tormented. She suffered from a lot of depression. I knew that she was adopted and her parents never kept that from her as she got older I feel like it really was like this low-grade fever of torment that she always had, that she always wondered where she came from. Why nobody wanted her, where did she really belong? And I remember her always praying and always having this longing, this desire to find out where she came from, and when she turned 40 she got a call one day from a search agency that there was a gentleman looking for her. 

Come to find out, she went on to a sh she got married and gave, had four sons. She told her oldest son right before she died that she, her big secret, that she had a baby girl when she was 17 and gave her up at this hospital.

So that guy, my uncle, called up a search agency and found my mom when she was 40. So this big, it was just such a watershed moment in my mother’s life. Such a watershed moment of healing and wholeness and completeness just began to flood her when, when her family had found her. And she waited 40 years for that.

And the local news came out, because it was a big, it was a big story in, in our region down there, you know. We come from a town of 250 people, and so the, the news station from the big town came out and they were interviewing my mother and all, all of her brothers are standing behind her on the news camera, and they, they were, my mom was just weeping, and they said, Mrs. Stevenson, how does it feel? Just describe to us what you’re feeling like, what this means to you, and she didn’t even describe what was she was feeling. She just quoted Ephesians three 20 and Ephesians three 20 says, “now all glory to God, who is able through his mighty power at work within us to accomplish exceedingly and abundantly more. All that we could ask or imagine.” 

And that got stamped on my heart as a young kid. From then on, And that is something that has carried me into my adult life. Even in this moment that we sit here right now as a dad of, of three kids, as a husband, as a friend, as a minister, I’m seeing now that regardless of how treacherous the journey is or how, how difficult things might seem at times, he is able to do exceedingly and abundantly more. All that we can ask or imagine, and I think we get tripped up because we get so focused on time and we’re addicted to certainty and we’re addicted to results and the end result and it’s just not the way the kingdom works. Um, and I got a front row seat that to with my mother and I’m so thankful for her and, and how her experiences poured over into my life and every time I start getting impatient, I just start thinking, God, you are able, you didn’t teach me how to swim all the way back then to watch me drown now. And that’s for all of us. That’s for all of our stories. He is, he’s so good. We can trust him with the details of our life because I have found that he typically operates in the chaos.

Not by just giving us what we want, but by meticulously crafting our story and meticulously orchestrating the circumstances. As the board says, you know, a man makes his plans, but God directs his steps and that is so true. That’s who he is. He is a dad. He is a father. He doesn’t turn away from our hurt. He doesn’t turn away from our mess. He actually rolls up his sleeves and he jumps right down in the middle of it and stays right there with us. 

And that continues to give me so much hope all the time. Even when it seems hopeless, it seems dark, when it seems uncertain, when I feel like I’m drifting out into loneliness and in, in a raging sea and as dark, I just know, okay, Lord, I’m gonna, I can’t row anymore. I can’t paddle harder, I can’t work faster. I can’t run faster and harder. I can’t bench press this anymore. I’m just gonna raise my sails and trust your wind to lead me out.

God, thank you that you are so good. That your ways are higher than ours. Um, you are brilliant. Thank you for orchestrating our circumstances. Only the way you can do. God, we trust you with the details of our lives. Knowing that you are Abba, you’re not a task master. You’re not standing there with a scowl of disappointment.

We are your beloved sons and daughters and we thank you for that and I pray that you would pierce every heart who is listening to this pierce that heart with the revelation that we are the beloved in Christ. Loved with the same love and affection that the father has for this son, and that is who we are.

God we love you. We trust you. Just create a fire in our heart for revival. For cultural change, for transformation, God, for renewal and awakening. You are so good and we trust you with it all, thank you for being our dad. Amen.

Joshua Swanson: Thank you so much, Ryan, for sharing such an intimate story. Ryan wrote a song based on his mother’s journey called, Able, which we will play out this episode with. 

As always. Special thanks to Matt McCarty for producing an editing. Today’s episode, Jacob Fairclough produced our theme song. The Walk is brought to you by Worship Leader. I also wanted to thank the team at Life Audio for their partnership. If you go to life audio.com, you’ll find dozens of other faith-centered podcasts. They’ve got shows about prayer, bible studies, parenting, and more. So check ’em out at lifeaudio.com. I’m Joshua Swanson. Here’s, Able.