In 2004, I broke my neck diving into a shallow swimming pool in Costa Rica. Our surf trip ended early that year. Mom had begged me not to go—motherly intuition. She had dreamt that it rained heavily and all of the trees in the jungle snapped. I still remember the bottom of that swimming pool—my body a brittle bone pile.
In the emergency room, the doctor told me I’d never walk again. I remember his sterile eyes. His voice a morgue, and his words like cold dead bodies. I wished I wasn’t there, thinking it would be better to be still at the bottom of that swimming pool. But I wouldn’t let myself get emotional in the emergency room.
I graduated high school in 2002. I was an arrogant kid back then—an honor student, headed to Point Loma Nazarene University on a soccer scholarship. Even though I had found Jesus during my sophomore year of high school, I had traded him by my senior year for cool friends, a girlfriend, and a dream of becoming a wealthy businessman. I thought I had it all figured out.
During the ambulance ride, I remember thinking my life was over. I’d never be able to make it in this world as a cripple. The ambulance rattled. It was suffocating. I prayed for God to take me. At that moment I experienced something I’ve only experienced once since: a powerful new voice filled me, saying, “Everything will be alright, my son.” Then there was darkness.
I spent over three months in the hospital. I was blessed to have family and friends who always lined up to visit me, but it was also hard to see them and the sadness in their eyes. I was twenty years old, with no idea as to what I was going to do with my life now. They might have been asking themselves the same question. A war raged inside me: Will I ever have a life again? I can’t do this. What is the purpose of all this suffering?
A Bible sat in my hospital room for weeks, staring up at me, collecting dust. Finally, I opened it up to Matthew, and the Sermon on the Mount cried out:
This is why I tell you to never be worried about your life, for all that you need will be provided, such as food, water, clothing—everything your body needs. Isn’t there more to your life than a meal? Isn’t your body more than clothing?
Look at all the birds—do you think they worry about their existence? They don’t plant or reap or store up food, yet your heavenly Father provides them each with food. Aren’t you much more valuable to your Father than they? So, which one of you by worrying could add anything to your life?
And why would you worry about your clothing? Look at all the beautiful flowers of the field. They don’t work or toil, and yet not even Solomon in all his splendor was robed in beauty more than one of these! So if God has clothed the meadow with hay, which is here for such a short time and then dried up and burned, won’t he provide for you the clothes you need—even though you live with such little faith?
So then, forsake your worries! Why would you say, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For that is what the unbelievers chase after. Doesn’t your heavenly Father already know the things your bodies require?
So above all, constantly chase after the realm of God’s kingdom and the righteousness that proceeds from him. Then all these less important things will be given to you abundantly. Refuse to worry about tomorrow, but deal with each challenge that comes your way, one day at a time. Tomorrow will take care of itself.Matthew 6:25–33 TPT
Reading books quickly became my obsession. The Bible fed me, and I read science fiction, fantasy, nonfiction, and self-help books too. I even started consuming comic books. It was easier to escape into a story than deal with my new reality. I spent most days during those first couple of post-accident years in my room at my parent’s house, lost in story. God was with me; I understand that now.
Eventually, I stumbled upon a book titled Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist who endured unspeakable atrocities in the concentration camps during World War II. While imprisoned, he studied the mental conditions of the prisoners around him and noticed a shared characteristic among those who endured: hope. According to Frankl’s observations, those who held onto a fragment of hope or were able to find meaning and purpose in their suffering were more likely to survive. Frankl became my mentor and taught me the power of the human spirit. Of course, there was purpose in my suffering. Of course, God would move and work through my life despite my brokenness. Over and over, I replayed the words I heard in the ambulance: “Everything will be alright, my son.”
My obsession for storytelling became a calling. I read more and more books and started writing my own little stories to pass the time and make Mom laugh. It was fun. It was fulfilling. And it was something I knew I could get better at with practice. I saw visions of myself using storytelling as a way to reach others—to be used by God. That was the beginning.
It became clear to me that I must make comic books. Better yet, I must make comic books that glorify God and reflect his love for me and all of his creation. So, in 2013, I received my BA in Literature and Writing from California State University San Marcos. Then in 2015, I received my MA in Literature and Writing from the same institution. All glory to God. The titles are not as important as the experience I received or the mentors I met and friendships I forged. My vision was coming true.
God put it on my heart to begin working on a Christian comic book based on one of my heroes, Paul the Apostle. My vision was to create an illustrated comic book adaptation of the Bible story using awesome-looking cartoon creatures. I wanted it to have similar excitement, magic, and adventure as the stories I grew up loving: The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In setting Paul’s story in a futuristic universe, I hoped this comic book would engage today’s youth so it could be used as a powerful ministry tool to inspire kids around the world to read the Bible. I pitched the idea and a detailed outline to Ben Avery, a reputable Christian comic book writer, who loved the concept and agreed to help cowrite the script. I then partnered with an up-and-coming illustrator named Mark Harmon. He worked with me for the next four years, illustrating the script while I directed the art. This project has been a massive blessing in my life, and my prayer is that it could be a blessing to families around the world. It is exhilarating to finally pursue a purpose that’s worthy of the calling you have received from God.
For a long time, I could not imagine a way for God to use my broken body to glorify him. And to be honest, I still have moments of doubt. I am not here to tell you that I have it all figured out. But amidst the suffering, God is with us, helping us along and teaching us ways to glorify him. I still suffer. I still sometimes mourn my “old” life before these metal wheels carried me. But I have faith that God will continue to move in my life in unimaginable ways. I am convinced that through the grace and glory of Christ Jesus, everything will be alright.