One decision made all the difference. One decision – albeit uncertain and yet in that moment very certain – would be the difference between me still sitting on the same barstool of numbness and my new reality of watching this sunset over the beach in the city I am thrilled to call home.
One decision. Sometimes that’s all you get to alter your destiny.
Today marks a very important day for me, or rather the anniversary of a very important day in my life. A few of my friends know the story well, and a handful of acquaintances know what they saw, but it’s likely that most of the 200 or so people who read my blog won’t know this story, so let me start from that day and unfold the events.
On Friday, October 19, 2012, I was sitting at home in Monroe, Louisiana with all of my stuff packed, a destination in mind, and nothing but faith to get me there. At the time, I was a college dropout working as the Marketing Coordinator of a lovely little restaurant. I had a lot of friends around me, friends everywhere I went – which let’s face it, isn’t hard to do in a town of 50,000 people. My life was pretty peachy. But something inside of me felt incomplete and ill-ripened. I wanted more. I didn’t want to live in a small town where everybody knew everything about me. I wanted to blossom as an adult and soar to new heights. In the background, I had recently applied to my dream college and received the thin, white envelope in return: REJECTED. Through a course of events, God managed to get me accepted another way. But this college was pricey, and it was in Florida – almost 1,000 miles away. With each passing day I cried out to God asking for confirmation that I wasn’t crazy or foolishly unsettled. I asked God why I couldn’t find contentment in my daily life. I knew in my spirit that He was causing the unrest. I knew I was meant for grander things than plateauing at the ripe old age of 22.
Getting fed up with your circumstances is really getting fed up with who you are in those circumstances. If you are ready to leave who you have been pretending to be, then get ready to leave those circumstances. In small towns, it’s all about what people are saying about you: who you are dating, who you used to date, your worst decisions, how much liquor you can hold down. When you move away, you have the opportunity to shed your old façade like an outgrown sweater and find the true you. You can find those things which transcend your friend count, notoriety, and even your personality.
One decision may be the turning point that gets you there. Sometimes you have to proclaim truth before you really understand it. God will give you a prayer in your heart, and it will likely make no earthly sense to you, but you know it is His words for you. Rally up your faith, trust Him, and shout it loudly! While I was still stuck in my old life, I screamed my dream daily: “I am Floridian! I am Floridian! I am Floridian!!!”
A key Scripture in my life during this rather tumultuous time was Hebrews 11 (AKA the faith chapter):
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen… But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
On that day, I felt God leading me to leave my past and go to the place I now call home. I drove overnight through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and finally…Florida. When I arrived in my new hometown on Saturday, October 20, I didn’t have a place to live, unless you count the hotel I stayed at for a week. I didn’t have a job. I didn’t have a way to pay for my dream college. I didn’t know a soul. In fact, I would go weeks without a single hug – which was the toughest part for me. I knew I made the right decision, but it still hurt to be so isolated, even if by choice. After all that I had been through in leaving my old life, I knew I couldn’t go back only to try to leave again one day in the future. It hurt too much to repeat. There were weeks and months I felt completely emptied – most old friendships died, my sense of purpose in working died, the identity I thought I cultivated died. It was during a time in which I was focusing on my old life that God revealed to me: The things of the past are not for today. If I will release the past unto itself, I can truly embrace what is in the present. And it was in that fertile soil of present-ness that God sprung alive a new life in me.
As I studied Scripture, I realized that faith isn’t a nice thing to do when I’m feeling good; it’s a requirement. Faith actions aren’t the cherry on top of our Christianity; they are the inevitable result. As James 2 bluntly states:
“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? …Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’… For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”
I’m writing this on the third anniversary of my move to my new hometown: sunny St. Petersburg, Florida. I could not be happier. I have a wonderful community of Godly friendships: people who are thriving around me and challenging me to grow deeper in faith. I have a great church with Godly leaders. I have a good job with opportunity to evolve as a professional. I’ve been able to contribute to my community through several outlets: church and other organizations. I’ve discovered new interests and hobbies over the last few years: attending the opera, going paddle boarding, visiting the local breweries, attending MLB and NHL games, watching numerous sunrises over the water and sunsets into the water, and many other things I wouldn’t have done had I not found my new home. I am truly blessed. But it was one decision that really moved me from the life I was leading to this blessed new life. One day, God revealed to me this truth – and it hit me like a sack of bricks: The person I will be in 10, 20, and 50 years is a fully cultivated version of who I am today. Just like bacteria are cultured in a science laboratory, your life grows from the tissue which you give life to today. Those things you focus on, do consistently, and spend your days on – that’s what you’re giving life to. Today is the day you decide your future. The decisions you make today will either continue or alter the course you are on.
Look at your present life. Is it the life you always hoped you would live? Even after I’ve begun living this new life, I can still say: this isn’t everything I hoped and dreamt it would be. Don’t misinterpret me; I am very blessed. I have good friends, a good church, and a good community; but I dream of having a global ministry to reach all people with the love of God and the hope of His gospel. What about you? Is your present life everything you dreamt it would be? If not, what decisions are you making to change it?
I knew God was pushing me to dream bigger, to spring into a new reality. I knew it for years and years before I really took the leap of faith. If I would have realized that entire life sequences would result from only a handful of “one decision” steps of faith, I sure would have seized hold of those decisions a lot sooner. What one decision of faith can you make today?
Disclaimer: there is nothing inherently wrong about living in a small town. What I described was my reality in a small town – a lovely, quaint town where I knew God didn’t intend for me to stay, hence my discontentment. (There are people who would describe St. Petersburg as “small”; that adjective is relative.) There is something wrong about staying where God hasn’t called you to stay. I know godly people who are called to live in small towns, large cities, and remote parts of the world. It’s not about location…it’s a matter of obedience.