Jesus Calling Podcast

A Prayer for Peace & Hope at Christmas: Chris Tomlin and Tom & Pam Banwart

Chris Tomlin: I love that the Christmas season is the season of hope. Christmas slows us down. Even with the hustle and bustle, it slows us down to be thankful for what we have. But this year, it’s even more so. My encouragement [is] that you would find the peace and hope of the season.

A Prayer for Peace & Hope at Christmas: Chris Tomlin and Tom & Pam Banwart – Episode #231

Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. During this Christmas season, we have the privilege of hearing from guests who make it their mission to bring gifts of joy and service to people all year long—one on a national platform and another, a couple who make a difference in their own community. We welcome platinum-selling worship artist Chris Tomlin and mission-minded retired couple Tom and Pam Banwart to the show this week.  

Chris Tomlin is a platinum-selling, multiple Grammy and Dove Award-winning worship artist whose music has been sung in churches all over the world. Playing to sold-out venues filled with people who are hungry to know God through worship, Chris felt the calling to be used by God at a very early age, writing his first worship song at the age of fourteen. In addition to his passion for worship music, Chris has a special place in his heart for the Christmas season, and for many years has done a highly popular Christmas worship tour. With 2020 bringing a halt to live performances, Chris decided to bring his program to people right in their homes, with a special virtual Christmas concert. Chris reflects on why Christmas hymns are so meaningful to him and why this time of year holds so many wonderful memories for him and his family, Chris also has a new reason to love Christmas—the birth of a brand new baby in December.

Chris Tomlin: I’m Chris Tomlin, a songwriter for many, many years. And for me it’s just been about writing songs that help give people a voice to worship God in church. And it’s been amazing to see how these songs have taken me all over the world and I never would have dreamed it. 

I had two brothers, so it was three boys. And we were just so fired up about Christmas every year. And we would, as little boys, would sleep in the same bed on Christmas Eve and we would just be like, “Oh, my gosh, can you imagine?” Like, you know, we were just thinking, This is going to be the greatest night. 

Chris Tomlin’s Funniest Christmas Memory

Probably the funniest, the best, story that’s ever happened in my life was this Christmas going to see Christmas lights. One year we go to my grandmother’s, and we’d go by this one house that had lights—that kind of tells you where I grew up, one house—and now everybody’s got a big light display. When I was growing up where I was in East Texas, this one house, they did it up. And on Christmas night, you would go and go look at what they did. And it grew every year. And it was, after years and years, it had nothing to do with Christmas. They’d have like Star Wars displays every year. As a kid, you’re thinking, This is the greatest thing ever. We would get fired up about this house. 

This one year, Dad’s like, “Boys, get in the car, we’re headed to go see the house.” 

And we’re in a Chevy Caprice classic—I don’t know if you remember the Chevy Caprice Classic, some of your listeners will know—it was kind of brown, it looks like a police car. Three boys in the back. And this year, there’s a long line of cars, everybody has figured out where the house is, and my dad gets frustrated, not wanting to wait in line. He’s like, “This is like an hour’s worth of cars just to go see one house. This is not making sense. I’ve got cars behind me, got a car in front of me. I can’t get out of the line.” 

I’m like, “That’s cool, Dad, let’s just be patient.” 

He’s like, “All right, boys.” 

Well, as we get closer, he sees this guy in the front yard of the house holding a bucket. And as every car comes in, he puts the bucket in the window and pulls it out. 

This sends my dad into complete fury. He’s like, “Boys, this is what’s wrong with America. This is what’s wrong with Christmas. It’s all about greed, greed, greed. They line us up all these years for free, and then they get us. And they’ve got us now. I can’t get out of this line now. They want money. It’s all about money.” 

And he’s going to give them that dad speech. And we’re just like, “Dad, chill out. We just want to give him a dollar. We just want to see these lights.” 

We’re getting close. We’re about two cars left, and Dad says, “Alright boys, I got an idea.” 

“Yes sir.” 

He’s like, “When we get close, we’ll roll the window down. And when that bucket is in the car, I’m rolling up on his arm and I’m taking all the money and we’re gone. We’re leaving.” 

And I was just like, Oh my gosh, me and my brothers, we get in the floorboard of our car. We’re like, We’re going to jail on Christmas. So we get in the floorboard and we’re just down. 

And sure enough, we get up there. Dad rolls the window all the way down. This man walks up, puts the bucket in the car, and the bucket is filled with candy canes, and he starts throwing candy canes in the car, looking at my dad going, “Merry Christmas, sir. I cannot believe this is such a long line just to see my lights. Oh, look at those precious boys back there. Here’s a candy cane.” He’s throwing candy canes, it was raining candy canes. 

You can imagine my dad is sinking in his seat, just sinking. The guy just keeps saying, “Sir, I hope you have the best Christmas! Merry Christmas! God bless you guys.” 

Me and my brothers are on the floorboard not knowing what’s going on, just candy canes falling on top of our heads. Where’s like, “This is a Christmas miracle, what is happening?” 

We were in the floorboard, Dad takes off, we don’t even see the house. We were down in the floorboard. By the time we got back up, we’re like, “Dad, what just happened?” 

And he just didn’t say a word because he’s just is so mad, embarrassed. He’s not saying a word. It’s like these unspoken rules. You don’t speak at this moment. You just kind of be quiet. And that makes it worse because it’s like when you have to laugh in church, you know, like it makes it worse. And so we’re just back there just like eyes watering, trying not to laugh. 

Mama, I look over my mom. She’s got this face of, like, Thank you, Lord, this is the greatest thing that ever happened in our marriage, greatest day in my life. She’s loving this, that this has happened to Dad because he was so mad. 

And we got home, Dad didn’t say a word, went back to his room. We never spoke of it. We just kind of just had the best time with Mom. That’s one of my favorites. I’ll never forget it, me and my brothers still laugh all the time about that. We’ll tell Dad all the time, “Hey, Dad, we should probably go by the house, you know, give the guy some money. You never know. These might be hard times.” He just shakes his head. 

So Christmas lights has always been fun for us and we still do it with my girls. I think we’re going tonight to go look to go find some lights to go look at. 

Writing Songs for a Christmas Miracle, Then and Now

You know, every year for ten years, I’ve done a Christmas tour and it’s what I look forward to more than anything. And I mean that. And when I’m touring—because I love the Christmas season, I love the songs, I love creating. So we get to create something that I don’t get to carry on other tours. And people just come back and we go to the same cities every year because people want to do that every year and it’s so fun. 

Well, this year obviously it is not happening because you can’t gather in the first year. And I’m so bummed about, What can we do? How can we bring this to everybody’s home? So we’re doing it in conjunction with K-LOVE, this incredible partner, helping us do this. I could never do it without them. It takes a great partner to do what we undertake. They’re going to be all kinds of different behind the scenes stories. I tell that story around a campfire about my dad. Several artists that are with me I think people are going to love, and we try to keep this night about what matters. It’s called Christmas Songs of Worship for a reason. It really is at the end of the day about one thing, and it’s about worshiping God and being grateful for Jesus and the love and peace and the hope that He gives during the season. And so I think you’re going to feel that. So this is going to be a special, special night. 

I love all the different Christmas songs, but there’s something special about these ones that are the songs of worship, what Christmas is really about. And I think about the carols and I think about the great songs, “O Come All Ye Faithful” to “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” these songs that we’ve sung them so many times they become Christmas carols. But, you know, when you think about those songs, the person who wrote that didn’t think, I’m writing a Christmas carol. He said, “I’m just writing a song of worship from a church for my congregation.” And it’s been a couple hundred years now. These songs have lasted. There’s a reason, I think, that they’re some of the greatest songs ever written. And so when I come to try to write songs, I’m always thinking that, I want to write songs that bring worship to God, the reason that we have Christmas.

“When I come to try to write songs, I’m always thinking that, I want to write songs that bring worship to God, the reason that we have Christmas.” – Chris Tomlin

Over the last decade, I’ve been writing songs for the Christmas season and it’s my favorite songs, right? It’s the biggest challenge, but I love writing these songs. I’ll never match “O Come All Ye Faithful” or “O Holy Night” or anything like that. But I’m always shooting for that. And like, I want to write something that helps people sing and worship God. And that’s always been, my records don’t have a title, and they always say Christmas Songs of Worship because I really want to put that in mind. This is not Christmas carol land. We just sing the songs, these songs are some of the greatest songs. I’m talking about, “O Holy Night,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” whatever the great standards, they are just some of the greatest worship songs ever written. 

When we sing “Silent Night,” it’s a song of worship to God, those kinds of things. So I’m looking in that lens. And this year, as I was writing songs, you know, I had a little different moment. I was at the piano, because I was thinking about my own baby coming this Christmas, having a Christmas baby and the surprise of it. I remember when Lauren told me that we were having a baby, she gave me a present, and I was unwrapping it. And I think it was in March. And I didn’t know what this was, it’s like, “Why are you giving me a present in March? I know it’s not my birthday.” And it was a pregnancy test. I opened it, and I was not computing. I could not, I was just like, “What is this?” I’m looking at her. Like, “What? I don’t know what this is.” 

She’s just smiling, shaking her head. 

And I was like, “Are you telling me that we’re having a baby?” 

She’s like, “Yes.” 

And the room started spinning. I was holding on to the kitchen counter, had my hands, like, everything was spinning. I was like, “Oh my gosh,” I was not ready for that. It was a surprise, we thought that part of our life was over. We’d given everything away, the strollers, all the things. And here we are. 

So I was processing, as I was processing it and I started thinking about these songs, what a surprise this baby was. 

And I started to think about the surprise of Christmas, having a Christmas baby, which is due any day now, but Jesus being the Christmas baby and the surprise of Jesus. I mean, can you imagine what Mary must have felt when the angels came to Joseph and Mary in the tree and said, “Oh, by the way, you’re about to have a baby and it’s going to be the Son of God.”

“I mean, can you imagine what Mary must have felt when the angels came to Joseph and Mary in the tree and said, ‘Oh, by the way, you’re about to have a baby and it’s going to be the Son of God.’” – Chris Tomlin

You wanna talk about surprise—you want to talk about room spinning and what they must have been going through. And that is just what the miracle of Jesus is to the world, the miracle, the gift from heaven, the gift of God from heaven, and how that would change everything. And so I sat down and I thought, here’s a moment to write a song that’s really personal to me, that my Christmas baby is coming, but also has a parallel of Jesus coming at Christmas as well. And so I wrote these lyrics:

“I got the news today 

I heard that you were coming,

It took my breath away 

And the tears filled up my eyes…”

Everybody knows when you have a baby, it changes everything about the way you live and all your priorities, and you think about Jesus and how He would change everything. And so I wrote this as a way of every line, thinking about my baby. I think about Jesus coming. So the chorus is just a baby born, a miracle of love, the gift of heaven, I thought I heard angels singing Hallelujah, a baby born, baby born, the miracle of love.

“I sat down and I thought, Here’s a moment to write a song that’s really personal to me, [because] my Christmas baby is coming, but [it] also has a parallel of Jesus coming at Christmas as well.” – Chris Tomlin

And babies and miracles, and obviously Jesus is the greatest miracle that’s ever happened to the world. You never know what God’s going to do. You never know in your life. I wasn’t looking for it, wasn’t planning for it, wasn’t trying. But from a young kid, I remember praying a prayer, “God, I want to be available, whatever You want me to do for the rest of my life.” I was an eighth-grader when I prayed that. I knelt under this tree, and I said, “God, whatever You want to do, I’m just available. And I want to be Yours, basically.” I didn’t even know what to say to God, honestly. I just said, “I know You’re speaking to me, and I want to follow You wherever You lead me.”

“Jesus is the greatest miracle that’s ever happened to the world.” – Chris Tomlin

So in a time of chaos, in a season of chaos and season of a lot of fear, right into that season, I love that we’re celebrating the birth of Jesus in the sense of His peace and His hope to the world, that you would know the peace of God. Right in the middle of this, the fear and the chaos, that you would know the hope of God, that God did not leave us on our own, He did not leave us to just figure this thing out. But made a way through Jesus to have a relationship with Him and that you could lean into that to say, “God, here’s me fully, here’s my anxious thoughts. When I’m feeling the worries, the fears,” and that you would know a peace, the Bible says a peace that passes all understanding, a peace that is not known by this world, a peace that you cannot find by listening to the news, a peace that you cannot find anywhere else but through a relationship with Jesus. 

So this is a passage from Jesus Always on December 24th, this Christmas Eve, 2020.

PREPARE YOUR HEART for the celebration of My birth. Listen to the voice of John the Baptist: “Prepare the way for the Lord; make straight paths for Him.”

Christmas is the time to exult in my miraculous incarnation, when the Word became flesh and dwelt among you. I identified with mankind to the ultimate extent—becoming a Man and taking up residence in your world. Don’t let the familiarity of this astonishing miracle dull its effect on you. Recognize that I am the Gift above all gifts, and rejoice in Me!

Clear out clutter and open up your heart by pondering the wonders of My entrance into human history. View these events from the perspective of the shepherds, who were keeping watch over their flocks at night. They witnessed first one angel and then a multitude of them lighting up the sky, proclaiming: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth Peace among those with whom He is pleased!” Gaze at the Glory of my birth, just as the shepherds did, and respond with childlike wonder.

Narrator: After we spoke with Chris, their family welcomed a third daughter to the world, Elle Grace.

To experience a night of Christmas worship with Chris Tomlin, please go to to find out how to get a thirty-day unlimited access pass to this special concert and extra bonus content. You can also get Chris’s new record Miracle of Love: Christmas Songs of Worship wherever you buy music.

Stay tuned to hear from Tom & Pam Banwart after this brief message.

Merry Christmas from Sarah Young and all of us who work with Jesus Calling and the Jesus Calling Podcast. We know the holiday season can be stressful, but we pray that you are able to carve out some quiet moments to reflect on the amazing gift of love that God gave us at Christmas—Jesus. We hope you are seeing glimmers of God’s glory, even through difficult times, and finding the joy of knowing Jesus in a deeper way this year. From Sarah Young and the whole team, we wish you many blessings this Christmas. 

Narrator: Tom and Pam Banwart are a retired couple living in Florida. When the COVID-19 Pandemic began, they wondered how they could use the time they had to help those who were most affected by the crisis while keeping themselves safe. Determined to make a difference, Tom and Pam got involved with food drives, playing praise music from their lawn in their neighborhood, and facilitated weekly hospital bagel deliveries, all while keeping safety a priority. Seeing the connections their efforts were creating, the Banwarts then turned their efforts to a new endeavor: active prayer outside hospitals. Donning masks, gloves, and utilizing social distancing practices, the Banwarts set up lawn chairs outside the hospital twice a week, going to God in prayer, requesting blessings over doctors, nurses, patients, families, and hospital staff. Together they share how they’ve been able to build meaningful relationships and make a difference in the lives of people they might not even know in a time when personal connections are challenging. 

Pam Banwart: Well, my name is Pam Banwart, and I am a follower of Christ first. I am the wife of Tom for thirty-five years and a few months. I’m the mother of three adult sons. We have four little grandchildren. And in addition to all of that, I am a retired special needs teacher. I taught for thirty-six years and retired in 2014. 

Tom Banwart: I’m Tom Banwart. I’ve been on disability for over twenty years now, I’ve got a spinal column that’s collapsing. They told me many years ago that I wouldn’t walk and would be in a wheelchair and I beat that to this point. I mean, you know, each day is a journey for us because with a disability and stuff, it’s always a question of what I can or can’t do.

Pam: At thirty years old, I met Tom and we met at a bowling league. So that’s how we met. We raised our sons and retired to Florida from Illinois in 2014.

Wrestling with Faith

Tom: When I was eleven years old, I remember the exact day of praying, and our family was really involved with the Presbyterian Church. And I remember praying, asking God, “What do You want me to do?” And I had this overwhelming feeling that He wanted me to be a minister. And so that’s what I decided. 

Well, I got into living life and I refer to it at this point as “my riotous living years.” But faith was always there, you know. I mean, no matter how much trouble I got into, I was always praying. And I knew that Christ was alive. And I knew that somehow or another, He had my back. And I fought with Christ a lot. There were a lot of times of, “Jesus, why are you doing this? Why? Why does my life have to be this way?” I got to the point of being disabled, laying around, like, “You know, if you can part the Red Sea, how come you can’t fix my spine?” 

And I spent a lot of years fighting with Christ. He never fought back, which was really irritating. But for some reason, somehow, I stayed faithful. It gets to the point where I would be broken and I’d be driven to my knees. But it was never in anger that I called Christ. It was, “Oh, I’m done. Now, tell me what you want me to do.”

Pam: I was raised in a church-going family, but never felt a connection to God. I prayed. I knew there was a God. I knew that I needed to trust God. I knew that He would never leave me. But I knew that in my head, I never had a connection. And really, my connection began with Tom, because he had something that I didn’t get and I didn’t understand. And I wanted that.

I would pray, but I would always pray and tell God what to do. It was always, “Dear God, please fix this. Dear God, if You take care of this, I’ll never do this again.” Those were the kind of prayers I was doing. And it was pointed out to me that I need to pray for God’s will. I need to pray for Him to provide me with peace and comfort. I don’t need to give Him directions because He knows exactly what to do. And when my prayer changed, my life began to change. And somewhere in there is when Tom gave me Jesus Calling. It was in that time period. I can’t tell you exactly when, but that book has been a part of me. 

Springing to Action as COVID-19 Hits

Tom: When COVID-19 hit, we didn’t know what to do, we were afraid. And it was like, you know, what do we think? What do we do? The thought that just kept coming to me was, What a wonderful opportunity for us as Christians, that God gave us this chance to fight the spiritual battle. 

And I just kept coming up with more and more ideas. And I realized that I wasn’t a man of action, that I was a guy of ideas, and my job has always been, “I’ll give you the ideas, now you go take it and run.” And I needed to become a man of action. I needed to put these ideas to work myself, you know, and quit expecting other people to pick up the ball and run with it. And that’s really how things got started.

“When COVID-19 hit, we didn’t know what to do, we were afraid. The thought that just kept coming to me was, What a wonderful opportunity for us as Christians, that God gave us this chance to fight the spiritual battle.” – Tom Banwart

Pam: Initially, we kind of looked at each other when all this started and we weren’t sure how the two of us were going to survive when they put everything on lockdown, how the two of us were going to survive alone around the clock, 24/7 for an indefinite period. And I remember saying at the time, you know, “Thirty days, we can handle it.” Well, it’s been a lot of thirty days, and so much cool stuff has happened in thirty days. That’s the beauty of it. So I began to just pray for some comfort and some peace and praying about, “What can we do, just two retired people with preexisting health conditions?” So he gets the ideas, and we started running with them. 

How Can We Help?

Our concern is a lot of the ideas that he came up with were things that we thought we could do as just two people and keep ourselves safe. That was the biggest thing, was how can we help and be safe? 

Every Sunday afternoon at one o’clock, we would drag out our speakers—oh, prior to Sunday, we would sit for a couple hours and pick out music, make a playlist for thirty to forty minutes. We drag everything outside and put out a notice that we’re doing praise music at one o’clock. And we just blast the music like we were teenagers, you know? And we live on a pond, so the sound carries. And sometimes people came, sometimes people didn’t come. But we played it regardless. And we started that, and it was a way to bring Christ to the community. And then from that, we did a food drive, like for our community.

Tom: The community had done a ‘park and pray’ at the hospitals in the area. And we live in a country county, and there’s three hospitals, really. And we went to that. We we’re kind of moved by that and thought that was pretty terrific. 

In America we’re really good at doing one and done, you know, we’re really good at the big event. But the reality is these people are going to work every day. And they are having to be the preachers and the moms and dads. You know, nobody is allowed in, they’re having to be absolutely everything and they’re stepping up and doing it. 

And so we started doing the bagels, and I said, “Yes, we can do this, but we can’t do it just one time. We need to do it every week.” 

Pam: And so we took a lot of phone calls and people to talk to because there were requirements. You know, we had to have a mask. We weren’t allowed in the hospitals. Social distance, we had to call ahead of time and tell them what we were coming. We get the bagels from, you know, one of the big bagel companies, curbside pick-up. 

Tom: The deliveries are made outside of the sidewalk. 

Pam: And with the bagels, too, we always write a note of encouragement, a note of thanks. Encouragement. We sometimes put a Bible verse in there. And we have had commitments from several local churches, which has really been a blessing.  

The Power of Prayer

Pam: We were delivering bagels one morning, and we were talking with the gals at the big hospital. They shared with us that they had just brought in fifty FEMA nurses to care for the COVID patients.

Tom: Because their people were so tired and worn out.  

Pam: And it was that information that stirred, again, the information guy, Tom, to the idea of praying outside of the hospital. And so he asked if that would be okay, and I think they were kind of surprised because we weren’t talking about another big park-and-pray with cars and people.  He was talking about just the two of us sitting outside the hospital somewhere and just praying for, you know, the people that were working there, all of the staff, the patients that were in the hospital, the families of the patients.

We didn’t know anybody at the hospital, we didn’t know anybody in that particular hospital. It was just his idea that, you know, maybe something visual on a regular basis so that people know that there’s people praying for them. And so from that, we started going to the hospital.  

Tom: It just really hit me that these people needed to see something consistent. I mean, the best thing for me in my life has been the consistency of Christ. And He has consistently been there, no matter what I’d done, where I’d been or anything. He’s been there, and they need to know that they had that, too. And it was just two goofballs, you know, a guy that hasn’t had a haircut in seven months. And, you know, his wife’s sitting there with a sign that says “praying” on a couple of lawn chairs.

“The best thing for me in my life has been the consistency of Christ. And He has consistently been there, no matter what I’d done, where I’d been or anything. He’s been there, and they need to know that they had that, too.” – Tom Banwart, on praying for first responders and patients outside their local hospital

That’s what we would do. And we went there the first night feeling completely inadequate. We were always what I would refer to as the cut a check Christians. If there was a fundraiser, Guatemala missionary, or something like that, you know, “Cut ‘em a check,” we’d walk out, we felt good about ourselves. We weren’t ones to go and ask somebody if they’d like to pray. We would pray for somebody, you know, in the quiet of our own home, but we would never pray with people out loud, boldly.

There was some, you know, definite anxiety there about whether we’re really gonna be able to pull this off. We went there at shift change and we figured we would be telling people, “Thank you for the hard work,” and if anybody wanted to pray we would pray with them or take their name and pray later. As we’re sitting there, we watched three or four ambulances come in. We watched people in trouble going into the emergency room. We watched pregnant ladies going in to have their babies. On our left, we watched the morgue picking up bodies in funeral cars. So we had all of that in two hours. And then there was a man screaming through a window trying to talk to his wife, who had just had a stroke, because he wasn’t allowed in to be with her. God’s like, “Okay, you do this. This is what you’re going to have to deal with.” And then we walked out after that, more convicted than ever, to be quite honest with you, scared to death. But the word wow just kept coming out of our mouth.  

Pam: It was so emotionally charged and so powerful. The need for this to happen was loud and clear and we both felt really, really inadequate because we’re just two people. What can we do, you know? And we weren’t chasing people down in the parking lot. We just sat in the little designated spot. And as we saw things, we would look at each other and we would pray. And so we had to do it again and again and again, and that’s what we’ve been doing.  

Suiting Up and Showing Up

Pam: I’m going to try and read without crying a passage from Jesus Calling dated January 11th.

TRUST ME by relinquishing control into My hands. Let go, and recognize that I am God. This is My world: I made it and I control it. Yours is a responsive part in the litany of Love. I search among My children for receptivity to Me. Guard well this gift that I have planted in your heart. Nurture it with the Light of My Presence. When you bring Me prayer requests, lay out your concerns before Me. Speak to Me candidly; pour out your heart. Then thank Me for the answers that I have set in motion long before you can discern results. When your requests come to mind again, continue to thank Me for the answers that are on the way. If you keep on stating your concerns to Me, you will live in a state of tension. When you thank Me for how I am answering your prayers, your mindset becomes much more positive. Thankful prayers keep your focus on My Presence and My promises.

Tom: You know, we’ll keep suiting up and we’ll keep showing up and keep doing what we’ve got to do. And I pray to God that some more ideas come. And I just hope that the Christian population realizes that we’ve got warriors in these hospitals and these guys are warriors, man. I mean, they are suiting up and showing up every day. And like I said earlier, being the mothers and the fathers and the daughters, we need to strengthen these folks. We need to help them any way that we can. 

Pam: You know, this has stirred both of us. And we’ll just keep on going, wherever there’s a need.  

Narrator: Thanks to Tom and Pam for sharing their story, inspiring us all to help wherever we can.

If you’d like to hear more stories about bringing your gifts and service to others, check out our interview with country music artist RaeLynn.

Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we talk with professional skateboard champion Ryan Sheckler. Becoming a skateboard professional at just thirteen years old, Ryan found himself thrown into a lifestyle of drugs and partying that left him addicted to alcohol, as he searched to fill an emptiness in his life. At age twenty-five, Ryan checked into rehab. And when he got a call from a friend who confessed he’d struggled himself with addiction, Ryan realized he wasn’t alone.

Ryan Sheckler: Five days after being there, I got a call from Michael Phelps, who was a friend. And he was very proud of me for being in there. And he sent me another copy of Jesus Calling and explained to me how he went through similar, similar things. And in my mind, I’m like, This is Captain America. This is Aquaman. This guy went through what I’m going through? And then it clicked. I’m like, Oh, none of us are alone in this world. We’re not alone. And we’re supposed to go through this pain to be able to teach this lesson.