The Self-Made Man . . .

The tattoo reads, "S-E-L-F M-A-D-E." I beg to differ.

Ryan Friedlinghaus is the creative genius behind the wildly popular and financially lucrative West Coast Customs. His company is a hit and so is his series on the Velocity TV Network, Inside West Coast Customs. WCC is truly world-famous with operations in Germany, Dubai, Mexico, Malaysia, Russia, and Japan.

If you've missed the show, tune in! You'll be treated to an amazing team of fabricators, artists, and electrical wizards. They can break down a car in thirty minutes and in just a matter of days transform it into rolling art.

Ryan's resume includes a Who's Who of the rich and famous. He recently built a custom CTS-V for Justin Bieber (is he old enough to drive?) and a one-of-a-kind Cadillac Escalade for Mark Wahlberg. You can click here to see his online showroom.

Friedlinghaus got started with a $5,000 loan from his grandfather, which he turned into a multimillion-dollar empire. It's a great American story: rags-to-riches! Which, I am sure, is why it is so tempting to feel "self-made."

I look at Ryan and ask myself: Savvy business man? Yes. Creative excellence? Yes. Talent finder? Yes. Team builder? Yes. Self-made? No way!

I thought about the car-customizing star yesterday while reading Practice Resurrection by Eugene Peterson. Peterson writes,

We are conceived in an act of relationship, a conception followed by a nine-month apprenticeship of total intimacy in the womb. We are not ourselves by ourselves. We have our origin by means of a relationship between our parents. After coming out of the womb we find it easy going for a couple of years. We have all our needs cared for, food and warmth and affection. We are one with our mother at her breast. We are one with our father, riding on his shoulders. Our siblings entertain us, playing and laughing with us. But it isn't long before we begin to explore the illusions of making it on our own, of getting our own way, of imposing our will on another. (Eugene Peterson, Practice Resurrection, 245)

We are not ourselves by ourselves.

Today, I write this post from my office. I am here by the grace of God and the marriage of John and Eileen Kiedis. I tap out keystrokes on my Apple keyboard, looking at a Dell monitor, sitting in a chair distributed through Office Max, viewing my screen through reading glasses crafted by Shane at the office of Dr. Schmidt, my optometrist. I wear these glasses over contact lenses manufactured by the Clairty H2O company--high tech folks with big-time smarts. I have lights overhead and an air-conditioned breeze blowing through vents -- I made none of this happen.

No one is "self-made." Not Ryan. Not You. Not me!

Next time I twist my shoulder to pat myself on the back, I want to remember Ryan Friedlinghaus, and Eugene Peterson, and the thousands of people God uses to make me. But mostly I want to remember Jesus, the one who spoke the world into existence ex nihilo (out of nothing), the one who said, Behold, I am making all things new,1 and the one who reminds me there is no such thing as a self-made man, for he said, Apart from me you can do nothing!2

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:36 ESV


1 Revelation 21:5 ESV 2 John 15:5 ESV