Sometimes it’s the fear of the known that scares me the most.
The unknown just presents a set of fresh flexible challenges to me; no job, no place to live, no existing connections. Just a backpack full of culled neutral clothes that match everything else, all toiletries in hot pink 50ml Superdrug bottles and an expectation that an adventure far outweighs the potential risk of the move.
Perhaps I’m unusual in my approach. OK, so far, I’ve only done it twice – apart from my 18-year-old gap year project which didn’t really count. I moved to both New Zealand and the US without friends, a job, or a place to live. While I had some money to get started, I knew I would have to trust that God would need to show up for me in some way financially. Moving to English-speaking countries has made it infinitely easier for sure.
So far, I’ve been willing to step out and leave everything and everyone behind.
Yet one of the hardest risks for me has actually been the concept of returning to the place that I know, that I’m familiar with: England. It’s been years of friends asking when I’m coming back to Blighty, and I’ve always answered in evasive ways, because secretly the idea of moving back terrified me.
And after six and a half years of living overseas, England no longer seems so familiar. As well as living in NZ and the US, I also spent three months building toilets and taking teenagers trekking through the jungle in India. I also had first-hand experience of Bali hospitals from the ghastly dengue-fever. I’ve ministered in Switzerland with my church through my time here in the US, popped over to France for some spring skiing and some summer surf, as well as getting my car towed in Barcelona. I’ve been stuck in a rip on my surf board in Samoa, spent Christmas hiking one of New Zealand’s Great Walks in a hail storm and camped up the West Coast of Australia.
Before you click the back button on your browser and exit out of this irritating article, thinking you can’t handle any more seeming smugness of the writer in question, let me explain where I’m heading with this.
Because for all the risk of adventure I’ve prioritised over actually buying a house, getting married, having babies etc, the biggest risk I have had to face over these past six and a half years is now actually moving back to my own country.
Travel postpones. Travel makes me feel alive, like I’m living some kind of gap-life. It’s like my adult-appropriate legal drug. Escaping the London rat-race, I then found my identity in being the rogue friend who was still traveling and adventuring in my 30s – and following God’s path for me. The 2.4 comfort surrounding my friends, now seems just as appealing as it is terrifying and suffocating.
Because what if for me, taking the biggest risk of my life, is laying down my adventure? I don’t want to become addicted to the excitement of always having to move, always needing to have something new to motivate and inspire me – to a point where the fear that actually lies in my heart looks like being able to face what more of a normal life would look like.
I have felt God speaking to me over the years about the geographical places he wanted me to go. The steps that I took never felt like risk, because I felt so strongly that God was part of every choice I made.
Yet during my most recent times in the US, God has mostly kept silent about where to next when I would ask Him over and over again. When He finally answered, I felt Him start to tell me instead that I would be the one to choose what was next. Angrily, I kept on asking Him to direct my steps and show me what to do. I had become so used to that. Part of my pursuit of faith has been to finally grow in spiritual maturity – it’s taken a long time – but I found that when God started to trust me with choosing my own steps, I didn’t like it. I wanted my holy travel agent to come through again.
And so as I started to make choices – and not with much grace – I felt there would be a period of time back in England very soon.
The place which had been home. But isn’t. My voice no longer a clear British accent, but instead a weird mixture of Kiwi ‘ays’ and Californian ‘dudes’. On a recent trip home, I clearly remember the Boots’ cashier regarding me with confusion as I fumbled over the visa pay wave unaware of how it worked. Like I’d just crawled out of a cave.
And so those memories and that reality is what I look at now. Less than a month out from returning back ‘home’. This time with no job, no place to live. But friends – but still, who mostly now live in Zone 6 and are more focused on the school run than after work Friday drinks at Infernos.
So perhaps my biggest risk is trusting in God even if He won’t let me know what’s next. I don’t believe He’ll leave me stranded and I trust that the peace I have in Him will sustain my choices. He has always opened the door and provided when I stepped out in hearing His voice.
And so He continues to show me that the greatest risk – and most epic adventure I could ever have – would be stepping out in trust for Him. To leave my comfort zone of endless travelling and continue to pursue the greatest adventure of my life – one where He lets me choose my own paths, because He trusts me in the key areas of my life. Making my own choices, having proved myself to Him that I am trustworthy.
What if my journey with Him became my mountains and oceans instead?