On a warm and early June day, I was about to board an adventure I had never experienced prior to that moment in my life. It was the strangest of things; I had never been in an airplane or in a country other than my own. But that morning I was sitting inside the cabin of an Airbus 340, leaving behind several opportunities to munch on cakes and endure forced hugs from teachers as the semester was ending. The colossal machine intended to bring me to the other side of the world. I was full of fear. Not of the kind that gives you the feeling that you are about to die, but of the kind that makes your stomach so tied up in a knot that even thinking of anything else becomes impossible. I was by myself, headed for the unknown. Little then, did I know where it would bring me.
It took the flying colossus almost nine hours to take me to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. I was not able to do anything but practice anxiousness, which did not disappear as I landed and was forced to undergo the scrutiny any visitor to the United States must go through. My appearance was, of course, very bizarre. So what was a Swedish seventeen year old guy, with no relatives in America or records of previous travel, doing all by himself in Chicago? The details sounded suspicious. I was detained. Not for long, but long enough to research my reason for being there. Every physical part of me that could be shaken up was shaken up. I could not help but to reflect on my situation. I sprouted with excitement, though I was clueless of what to expect. The idea was unreal, I could never have imagined doing what I was doing right then. I was only a luggage band and a customs officer away. Out there, through the airport doors would be America and all of her diverse beauty, as well as six individuals that had only spoken to me through the internet. I had never felt so blessed. I couldn’t comprehend anything that was happening but I was forced to accept that it was real.
I had developed two good friendships over a period of eight months and was invited to spend a month of my summer with the friends and their families. The adventure I thought I had embarked on wasn’t only an adventure I would cherish throughout my life, but it also began the most unbelievable change in my life. That summer I embarked on a journey far greater than traveling across the Atlantic Ocean, far greater than I could’ve ever imagined. My life had been characterized by the search for purpose. I suffered much from depression and sought for comfort in such venues as alcohol, parties, and vain relationships. I consistently used other human beings for my own wishes and desires. I did not think highly of life, it was gloomy and, for the most part, I actually didn’t like it.
The family that invited me over and allowed me to stay with them introduced me to Christianity. Coming from a very secular culture, I had the idea that even if God existed, He wasn’t for me. But for the most part I was a proud professor of atheism. The thought of a God was repulsive to me, but I slowly started to realize that there was no reason not to explore the idea with an open mind. My life took on new colors as I started to see things from different perspectives. Over time, I started changing and realizing the truth of the Bible and how it applied to me. My life was changing. During that summer I had gotten to experience love, care, and life like I had never seen it before. The seeds that were planted in me that summer would grow through the following years and hopefully for the rest of my life. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow, and sadly, sometimes not at all or in the wrong direction. But it’s a journey, an adventure that is never-ending.
I am now twenty years old and study here in the United States. I have the most wonderful friends, a second family that loves me as much as if I was one of them, and a lovely girlfriend that loves me for who I am, and who I can be. That day in June of 2008, I truly experienced the start of something more grandeur than I could ever have expected. Life is beautiful. All of my years, experiences, and hardships make sense—not because they were “enjoyable” but because now I know that God had a plan and He still does. That day, that summer, will never be forgotten, for it marks a beginning of a life-changing journey—a journey only made possible by a thousand little pieces falling into place. How is it that I met the people that I did online? Out of all the billions of people on this planet, I came across somebody that would love me despite all of my faults and despite all the wrong that I had been doing. I was forgiven, given new chances, and enabled to begin life all over again. The journey has been long, but no day in the rest of my life will ever be the same again. Augustine once said, “There is no saint without a past, no sinner without a future.” This truth is testified in my own life. No matter what direction my life takes, I will be able to carry with me hope and satisfaction. We often find faults in life; we desire more of some things and wish for other things to be different. But such an outlook will not bring any joy or prosperity and I wouldn’t want to live the life that is blind to the beauty of it. My journey since that early June has truly taught me so much and taken me where I never dreamed. Life is what we allow it to be.
It is the craziest of ideas, flying across the ocean to an unknown place to stay with hardly known people. Or maybe you find it crazier to believe in a God I can’t see. I might appear as a brave and adventurous person ready to hop on any wild thing in life, or a lunatic that’s out of his mind. But honestly, I’m really not the first and the latter is debatable. My opportunities were given to me. So many intrinsically small parts played together and all evolved into the change of my life. I found real life in Jesus Christ, almost five thousand miles away from home, amongst strangers. We are all travelling along paths, going our own directions. I am on a path I never would have imagined years ago. I believe things happen for a reason, how else could we look at the big aspects of our lives? If everything was happening by chance, why do they orchestrate in such beautiful manners? It doesn’t always go the way we want it to—it rarely has for me—but the value of life should not be measured in wealth, possessions or anything else that rots away and is as easily lost as it is gained. Shouldn’t it be seen, experienced and valued in the eccentric avenues, in the traits that not even imprisonment nor torture can take away? My life changed because I found hope, joy and satisfaction. I stopped looking. I was forgiven all the bad things I had ever done, and trust me, they were bad. My life took on new colors because I stopped looking at myself as the center of the universe. The amazing adventure that began that warm summer’s morning was indeed the transformation of my life, and I cannot see it ending anywhere. Life is beautiful, if only you allow for it to be. If only you truly find Life.