Brave Enough to Stay

This post was originally published on The Road to Brave.

I don’t like crying in airports. 

Well, really, I don’t like crying anywhere anybody can see me. It feels uncomfortable and vulnerable and kind of embarrassing. But here I was, a puddle of tears in LAX — one of the busiest airports in California and, if Business Insider is accurate in their estimations, the fourth busiest airport in the US. 

Yes, there were people about. 

But the college calendar dictated that I return to grad school, where I was pursuing a music certificate, and return I must. And as embarrassing as it was, I was already so homesick that the sadness was edging around my tightly clenched throat and balled fists and making my eyes misty. Okay, more than misty. I found a corner and cried, trying to get rid of some of the loneliness through the pages of my journal. 

Isn’t it time for me to come home, God? 

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I wondered if I’d made a mistake. I’d made it through one semester, with the brightest spots being the weekends I’d spent as an “adopted” member of a family a few hours away. Now I faced another semester, and I already dreaded the feeling of isolation I knew awaited me. 

What’s more, I felt somewhat guilty for being homesick in the first place. I knew so many young people would have jumped at the chance to get out and be across the country. But my family and I had endured a long string of challenges, from military deployment to a parent’s cancer to sibling health crises, and we had the closeness to show for it. None of which helped stem the tears that I just couldn’t brush away. 

Did I make a mistake? 

There have been stretches of my life where I wondered that. I wondered if I was supposed to be in one place or another. Was my discomfort God’s prompting to move, or was it something I needed to endure through? I remembered stories my mom had shared — stories where our young family’s necessary career moves had resulted in few friends and growing loneliness for her. Yet she couldn’t evade the challenge — there was no “going back” or “going away”. And in that place, God met her. 

The beautiful thing is, God always meets us there. Sometimes the bravest thing we can do is heed His call to go. But other times, the bravest thing we can do is heed His call to stay. 

There are many different places God may ask us to stay, and our lives may look very different from place to place. Sometimes that place is really beautiful, and we delight in staying. Sometimes it is painful and we long for Him to move us elsewhere. Sometimes it is both. 

Looking back with the added perspective of several years, I realize I can see a little more clearly than I could in some of those moments. Looking back, I realize there are things I wasn’t brave enough to do — things that God has so graciously turned into valuable lessons for me. And looking back, I realize that God continued to work in spite of my lack of courage. 

  • I learned that putting down roots somewhere can be scary. 
  • I learned that you have to be intentional in order to thrive rather than just exist somewhere. 
  • And I learned that God works in those places of staying as much as He works in the grand adventures of going.

First, putting down roots can be scary. I don’t know why getting rooted somewhere new takes so much courage for me, but it does. I’m naturally very introverted, and I’m content as a cucumber to just watch everything in a busy room from the vantage point of a quiet corner. Putting myself “out there” to meet people and build community isn’t what I’d call natural. Engaging with new people, at least initially, isn’t easy.

But there are deeper “wrestlings” for me in putting down roots. One is that by putting roots down in one area, I’m having to necessarily say no to things in a different area. And I hate saying no. I worry about missing out (which inevitably leads to the fact that by not being fully engaged in either place, I actually miss out on both). Another struggle is that by putting down roots and staying in a place, I am opening myself up to deeper relationships and deeper vulnerability. And to be honest, even though I’ve learned that’s desperately important, that’s scary. 

Sometimes it takes a good deal of courage to get out and leave and go and move. And yet now I realize that sometimes it takes as much or more courage to stay. That in those (frequently quiet) places, God often helps us to build the relationships, abilities, trust, resilience, and yes, courage needed to live a life for Him. We need those things. We need roots that can sustain a life of obedience, and sometimes those are grown in times of waiting and staying. 

Second, I learned that it takes intentionality to thrive rather than just exist somewhere. Time passes whether we wish it or not. But thriving somewhere, rather than merely existing, takes work. It takes meaningful decisions and stepping beyond one’s comfort zone. Staying somewhere is not necessarily easy. Sometimes it takes tremendous courage. 

It’s fairly straightforward to just “exist” somewhere. You keep going day-to-day. The sun comes up and the sun goes down. Weeks pass. Months. Existing is easy. But what about thriving? What about really living, deeply alive? Engaging in life and relationships and work and community and discipleship and seeking first the kingdom of God? 

That does not just happen. It takes conscious daily choices, usually small but hard ones, to show up, reach out, and lean in. Those choices may be tough in the moment. We may not see big, shiny results from them immediately. But the effects of those choices compound. Roots deepen. Lives blossom. Relationships flourish. Health develops. It takes courage to refuse to settle for merely existing. It takes courage to thrive. 

And I learned that God works in those places of staying as much as He works in the grand adventures of going. Sometimes places of “staying” are very externally productive. It’s harvest time, and we reap in plenty. But other times, places of “staying” are places of planting and tending. Sometimes this is where God is doing quiet, necessary work in our lives — work we don’t always see in the moment. Work where He is bringing beauty from something that was hard. Work where the quiet, gentle growth of spring has been slowly preparing to break through the soil and turn everything into a vibrant shade of living green. 

During one of these times of uncomfortable staying in my life, a friend wrote me a note. Inside the card was the verse, Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19) 

When we don’t obey our Shepherd and stay in a place He has called us to, we don’t get to see Him work. there We don’t get to see the new things He is causing to spring up. We don’t get to see the well of His provision, overflowing and spreading like a river through the desert. 

Even in the more painful places I’ve stayed, camping out in a part of the wilderness for a season, God has never failed to meet me there. He has never failed to bring beauty and life where there was hurt and uncertainty. He has never failed to work in my life. 

And as I think back to that younger Victoria, crying behind a journal in an airport corner, I wish I could step back in time and give her a big hug. Tell her it’s okay to be sad. Tell her that God is using this time of staying in a place to bring deeper hope, deeper relationships, deeper strength, and deeper courage. That she should keep leaning in, even when it is hard. That God will cause newness and beauty and life to spring up from this place where right now she sees only sadness and separation. That it will be okay. 

…do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

This week, may we be brave enough to stay.