Should I marry him? Should I wait? Should I finish school? Go into missions? God, what am I supposed to do?
I am meandering through the streets of Lucerne, hoping the romantic scenery will evoke some spiritual sign so I’ll know what to do with, oh, my entire life. I am trying to piece together the lessons I’ve been taught over the years about discerning God’s will for my life. Lessons about God having great plans for me, and always seeking God’s desires before my own and something about doors that close and windows that open and being equally yoked to your spouse. I know that my boyfriend Bjoern is a Christian, and I know that I want to marry him. I’ve never felt like this about anyone before. We have the same world view, same dreams, same desires. We want to live life together. But I don’t know what God wants. What if He wants something else and I choose the opposite? What if I’m not spiritually adept at recognizing His signs and I go against His will out of ignorance?
Staring out at the Vierwaldstättersee, I am paralyzed with fear. There is nothing written in the sky hovering over the Alps; there is no whisper in the mountain air. There is no peace in the tranquility. I cannot discern God’s will. The next morning I board a train for Zurich. Watching the sun rise over Switzerland, I am exhausted emotionally, physically, spiritually.
I decide I can’t live like this anymore and want to let God know it:
Okay, God. I’ve been telling You that I want to do Your will and discover Your purpose for my life. I’ve done all these Bible studies and devotionals that tell me to “read this,” “pray that,” then “pray that again” and poof! I will discern Your will. And yet, I hear nothing. And one of the devotionals told me that if I’m having trouble hearing Your voice, then I’m having trouble with the very heart of the Christian experience…
An African snack salesman comes by with his snack cart and interrupts with a wide toothed grin and a simple, “Hello.”
How odd. He is speaking my native language on a German speaking, Swiss train. I am blonde, blue-eyed, and garbed in black to blend with European dress code. How can the African snack salesman know by appearance alone that I speak English? I greet him, but turn my head back towards the Swiss sunrise.
I am in no mood to be social, and this is a one-woman show: And if You created us just to torture us like this, then I’m just not sure it’s worth it. I mean, did You really create us just to mess with us like this? If so, then I just don’t see the point in the Christian experience anymore.
I breathe in deeply.
And I certainly do not see a point in You.
I exhale and wait – for the sky to break open, lightning to strike, the train to stall. Instead, the African snack salesman comes by with his cart for the third time. Hearing the squeaky cart, I turn my head to see him coming and kick myself for making eye contact. Now I have no choice but to buy a snack. I tell him that I will buy some chips, although I don’t care what kind. Having just abandoned my faith, I don’t care about much anymore. He hands me my chips, looks me straight in the eye and asks, “Why are you here?”
Perplexed, as this does not have anything to do with chips or the Swiss Francs I just paid him, I ask him to clarify – why am I in Europe? In Switzerland? On this Zurich-bound train? “No,” he says. “Why are you on earth?” I am not amused. “Because God made me,” I retort. He shakes his head, smiling at my cliché response, the response that no longer makes sense to me. “No,” he answers though brilliant white teeth. “God made you to worship Him and to praise Him all the days of your life.”
And then the African snack salesman promptly squeaks away with his cart.
Stunned, I sit back and open my bag of chips.
It makes a loud, crackling noise, and I feel like the entire car is listening.
Worship you and Praise You all the days of my life, God? Like when I sing for You, calling You our awesome God? Like when I praise You from Whom all blessings flow? Like when I call You holy, holy, holy, Lord Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come? Like when I look out to the mountains and call You majestic, communing with You because I can do nothing else? That’s why You created us?
Facing the window, the sun now over the mountains, it dawns on me that my monologue has just ended. And nothing has fallen out of the sky to smite me! I haven’t been punished for wanting answers, nor have I been shunned for briefly abandoning my faith. Instead, I have received a gentle invitation, because God, apparently, just wants to be with me. God’s will, I discern, is to be with all of us. And maybe the small details won’t determine the big picture of my life, but the big picture will determine the details.
So now I have to make the most important decision of my life
–even more important than marriage or school or missions: Can I live with this new, very basic and simple purpose? I chew on this, and my chips, for a moment.
Then I decide that I can. I change trains in Zurich, knowing that my travels won’t end there, knowing that I have more decisions to make.
My name is Kim Gottschild and I Am A Prodigal
Kim has the Tower of Babel incident to thank for giving her a career as a world language teacher, but she still manages to find the time to serve as Managing Editor for Burnside Writers Collective where she also writes about trying to live like God likes her. She resides with her spouse, their two precocious daughters, and their two rescue dogs in Carmel “by the Corn,” Indiana.
[photo: Alex Devine]