Five years ago, I would look up to watch a plane flying by overhead and would wish with everything in me that I could be on it, going somewhere – anywhere – away from here. I wanted to travel the world and experience new things. I had plans to move to America to study on a soccer scholarship, and my ticket out of Australia couldn’t come soon enough.
It seemed like the perfect, God-given opportunity for me. A chance to start my life over in a different country where no one would know who I had been, while playing the sport I loved and receiving an education for my future. By the time I finished high school, I was so sick of my life. I felt like I had no identity, no future, and no hope. The choice to leave everything behind and be whoever I wanted to be was the only one I wanted to make. And it seemed so perfect, so aligned with everything that I wanted for myself and that others wanted for me. Not only did I want it, but I was so sure that it was the path that God had prepared for me. My family, friends and leaders also seemed sure of this.
However, as my departure date crept closer and closer, and I was praying more and more for confirmation and reassurance about my future in America, I felt more and more confident that I should not leave Australia. I remember pleading with myself to not be so cautious and pleading with God to let me go in good conscience. I even came to the point where I just stopped praying about it altogether and tried to ignore the truth that I should stay.
Eventually, though, I turned down the scholarship offer. I knew in my heart that leaving my life behind here would not mean leaving my problems behind. The issues that I had not sorted out would follow me wherever I went – they were stuck to me, not the life around me. The following years were filled with incredible growth and incredible pain. Not only did I have to come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t going to be escaping my problems, but I needed to understand that I had not let myself or anyone else down by deciding to reject the offer of ‘a new life’. I had to learn that just because God’s plan wasn’t going to be what I was certain it would be, didn’t mean He didn’t still have a purpose for my life. I needed to learn patience, how to get back up after falling down, and how to cling to God in trials. I needed to learn how to search myself and to know who I am.
It has taken some time, time which has felt much longer than what it has actually been, to be able to say with confidence that yes – God does have a place and a life for me here. Now I see clearly how, amongst other obstacles, moving away from home would have severed my relationship with God or had me adopt a compromised version of my faith and thus my own identity. Would there have been a way back? Of course. But I am so thankful that my story is one of having stayed, as tormenting as the idea was to my 17-year-old self.
Yes, I am glad that I stayed here with my family, friends, church and unexciting life. I’m glad that I didn’t get into competitive soccer. I am glad that, through unimaginable pain, God has carried me through, and still sustains me now. And I am glad to look forward to a future here.