By Ali Morris
When I moved back to my hometown of San Diego, CA, in 2017, I had some big, lofty dreams for myself. It wasn’t that they weren’t possible; it was that I had given God a really short timeline for making them happen. I gave Him my timeline.
In those first few months of living with my parents, I was jobless and mostly friend-less. My siblings, all much older than me, were busy driving kids from school to soccer practice or learning what life with a newborn looked like. About ten minutes down the road, my childhood best friend was doing just the same.
And so, I woke up early each morning, shoved a laptop in my “work” bag along with a few pens, a notepad, snacks for the day ahead, and off I went. I’d spend a few hours checking email, doing research, designing my website, or deciding if I would take a journalism or children’s lit class when the semester started at the local University.
As I crossed items off my list, my days began to end earlier and earlier. Where once I woke up eager and excited for the day ahead, proud to finally say I was a writer, even dressing for the part, now I felt lost. I had the uncomfortable sense that I had nothing to do and nowhere to go. Which, in many ways, was true. Instead, I found comfort in the embrace of my newborn nephew while binge-watching the latest mini-series releases on my sister’s maternity leave.
When I moved south to San Diego, my long-time roommate and dear friend, Cheryl, went north to Los Angeles, California. We both made moves that allowed us to pursue dreams we’d been working toward for a long time. For me, having the support of family and less pressure to hustle allowed me to work on writing. For her, to try her hand at acting meant thrusting herself into one of the weirdest, trendiest, sunniest places in the world. She loved it.
Alone, we had each other. We talked on the phone a lot back then. Partly because she was trying to process the new friendship she had with her now-husband, but also because we were both trying to figure out what we were doing. No one seemed to understand our lives. We found solace in long calls and trips between our respective cities.
Despite the newness we were both in, Cheryl never seemed to doubt where God had her. I, on the other hand, had no idea what God was doing.
I wondered, I debated, I questioned my calling and my purpose. I regretted my decision to move; I was curious if God would ever really do anything of meaning with my life. Was it all for nothing? Was it worth the cost? I struggled to explain what I was doing to anyone else because the reality was, I didn’t know the answer.
My heart was weary; my soul felt burdened.
And then, during a conversation with Cheryl, one mostly focused on boys (one in particular) and whatever internal drama I was wrestling with that day, she said, “Go where the peace is.”
As a peacemaker, that made sense. It cut through the tension I’d been living in and reminded me to check in with my heart. Beyond that, it reminded me to check in with the Lord. When I decided to move back home, it was in a season where I felt more settled, being in tune with the Lord, not influenced by my emotions or circumstances. I had been seeking the Lord’s wisdom in how to move forward, and I felt peace about my decision.
Months and months later, I was in a very different place. Emotionally I was overwhelmed, spiritually I doubted if God was in it with me, and literally I was living with my parents for the first time since my senior year of high school. Up was down, down was sideways, and my insides were in turmoil. Peace was somewhere buried underneath it all. I’ve learned since, that we don’t often make our best decisions under stress.
“Our brains are wired to be more reactionary under stress. This can mean that in tough moments we reflexively narrow and simplify our options to all-or-nothing extremes… The minute you find yourself between two extremes, assume that both are limited, step back, and build a broader menu of options. That’s where you’re likely to find your optional choice.”Ron Carucci, Stress Leads to Bad Decisions. Here’s How to Avoid Them, Harvard Business Review
And yet here I was, totally stressed, questioning everything, making extremes of my circumstances and what I would do next. Becoming a writer was either working, or it wasn’t. Moving home was either a bad idea or a good idea. There was no in-between, no nuance, no room for God to do what He does best and get creative with my willingness to step out in faith. I had taken it upon myself to write my own story, but God is more in the business of setting our hearts toward Him so that we might experience His majesty. When we do, the story writes itself.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”Hebrews 12:2, BSB
“Go where the peace is,” Cheryl declared. Or in my case, stay where the peace is.
At that moment, I did a gut-check. It brought me back to when I had decided to move back to San Diego after 13 years away, confident that God would be with me in the journey ahead. It’s not that He wouldn’t have been with me if I had moved to LA with Cheryl or stayed exactly where I was. But as I took a step of faith, I knew God was more concerned with my obedience than where I was going.
Those first few months of wandering through San Diego sent me down a spiral. I started with clarity and confidence and ended up covered in brambles with dirt caked up my shins, twigs stuck in my hair, and a work bag shoved somewhere under my desk. My eyes veered off course, off Jesus, leading me through thicket after thicket, a lost sheep with wolves around every corner.
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.”Luke 15:4-6
In the midst of that late-night call, God found me. He picked me up and put me on His shoulders. He brought me home and reminded me to stay where the peace is. Where He is. To trust that He is with me and will guide each step I take, even the ones that feel like a giant leap of faith. There have been a lot of those in the last four years, but mostly a lot of little ones. When you follow Jesus, you will experience a peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7). Even when life gets shaky and there are wolves nipping at your heels, God promises to never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6). We need only to be still and trust that He is God; His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).