I sat on the curb outside the airport waiting for a ride that never came. Just 24 hours ago, I had been in the comfort of my Orlando apartment, surrounded by friends, shoving every earthly belonging I had into mildewy sea bag, capriciously tossing any article of clothing that wouldn’t fit. It had been hectic, but at least it had been familiar. Now here I was, sitting on a curb, the frigid wind a bitter contrast to the Florida sun I had come from. Auckland. It didn’t even sound real. It may as well have been Xanadu, El Dorado or Funkytown. Yet, undeniably, here I was. The opposite side of the globe from everyone and everything I had ever known, loitering on an airport curb in the cold wind of a country I had only seen in photos. How had I ended up here?
I had hatched this lunatic plan just a few months prior. After suffering through a divorce that blindsided me like a lead pipe to the back of the head, the most natural thing to do seemed to get away. Far away. I saved some money, bought a plane ticket and resigned from the best job I’d ever had before my visa had even been issued. Clearly, these were all the actions of a madman. Something about it felt imminently sane, though. It felt as though it was something I had to do more than something I wanted to do.
My reasoning was this: After an event as catastrophic as divorce, the best thing to do was go somewhere where I could get fresh perspective, entirely removed from the preconceptions of my old environment. Reinvent myself, so to speak. A fresh start.
The problem, of course, with fresh starts is that they can go either way. You can commit yourself to a newborn kind of innocence and opportunity, or you can throw yourself into the utter depths of depravity. When you go somewhere no one knows you, you can be anyone you want to be. You can essentially craft a whole new persona, and no one will have the background necessary to question it. If everyone initially knows you as a person of integrity, that’s who you’ll be. If, however, you decide to introduce yourself as a scoundrel, people will tend to accept it as one of your character quirks. It can even take on an endearing sort of novelty. Therein lies the peril.
It’s the age-old question of who you really are when no one is around to judge you. And, you don’t have to move across the globe to experience it. If I’ve learned one thing from my experience here, it’s that we decide anew each day who we’re going to be. We don’t just craft a well-practiced personality, good or ill, and then ride it out. It’s in the choices we make moment by moment. Will we live for God, point our actions toward integrity, or will we live for ourselves and the immediate gratification of the moment? Will we still live for Christ if there’s no one watching? It would have been very easy to come here and go off the rails. But, ultimately, I’ve learned firsthand how shallow and unfulfilling that really is. Instead, I want to set my course toward being conformed into the image of Christ.
So, what am I doing here? Hopefully, learning to actually stand for something even when I don’t have the pressure of people’s preconceived notions of me. It’s a hard lesson to learn, and it certainly comes with setbacks, but it’s one I’m determined to strive toward.