I feel like I have spent most of this last week on a variety of buses – some of which are lovely, comfortable and don’t smell, others of which resemble steel-framed bacteria labs. But the point is that all this time on public transit has afforded me a lot of leisure to think.
I hate to say it, but this week my thinking took a path towards the discouraging, to the point where Friday night – on my way home from a Czech language/baking lesson – I ended up asking God, “Really, what’s the point? Why am I here? Why are any of us here?”
In order to explain how a good girl, brought up in the church and spoon-fed catechism and theology from a wee little age, could possibly question why we even exist, doubt God or doubt his eternally divine goodness, I need to take you back to Tuesday.
Tuesday was my first day teaching at school – and while that’s not important in this story, the fact that I missed the bus is. You see, while waiting an extra fifteen minutes in the cold, crispy morning air, I began the first thought that led me down this rabbit trail of questions. The first thought was a happy one – I don’t remember exactly what, but it had something to do with marriage (my sister just recently got engaged – congrats to her and my almost brother-in-law!). You see, most girls my age tend to view marriage as something of a life-goal (stop me if I’m wrong, ladies). I don’t think many of us truly consider living as single woman forever. And while I can’t speak for all of us, I’m sure many would agree with me when I say society, the church, our mothers, and every happily married couple ever has helped cultivate in our hearts a fervent desire for marriage. Some of these influences are good and godly. But some of them are not. Sometimes I feel like “older” single women are viewed almost as barren women of Biblical times were. There’s this unspoken sympathy, like “I’m so sorry you’re not happily married…Where’d you go wrong?” The very fact that people tell me, “You’re only [insert age], you still have time!” is proof that, as a community, we tend to look at singleness as an in-between stage.
So, on the bus Tuesday morning I began thinking (and I use that word because “daydreaming” just has such a ditzy connotation anymore) about how, when and where God would bring someone into my life. As my mom has reminded me on multiple occasions, it would be a lot easier to find a husband in America.
Now, mind you, at this point these were all still idle thoughts.
But then on WEDNESDAY I happened to see a very, very old woman getting off the bus on my way home. I thought… this woman was alive during WWII. She lived here under communism. She had a whole life, probably with family and friends. And now it’s almost over and here she is still hobbling on and off buses.
If that woman was around 80 and I’m around 20 (rounding down), that means I’ve lived a quarter of her life already. Twenty turns into thirty really fast, I’m told. And then it’s two more decades till fifty! That’s half way to a hundred! Maybe it was just the stagnant atmosphere of the bus, but that just seemed like a really short time.
So that’s my first point: life is so very short.
And if life is so short, who cares if I find the perfect husband and we have perfect kids (my children will be angels and they will also be spoon-fed catechism and theology) and we live in a perfect house? What’s the point? What is the point of getting everything I want?
And that brought me to my second question: what do I want?
By this point I was feeling a little overwhelmed. I’ve never asked myself what I want before – I thought I’ve always known. For a few minutes I just stared out the window. I felt like the little kid at English Camp this summer who took like five minutes to figure out what color beans he wanted to use in his cross mosaic. I wanted to be like, “Dude, just pick one,” but I understand that art takes time.
A song that we sing at my church before Sunday school came to mind.
In His time,
in His time
He makes all things beautiful
In His time
The idea that God has a plan for our lives, that we are His artwork, is comforting. But it didn’t make me feel better, which is why my long bus ride on Friday night turned into such a doozy. When have I ever not been comforted by the vague thought that God has a plan and it will all be okay? What’s not working? I thought to myself, as if faith is a machine that can be broken and fixed. Why don’t I feel better knowing that God is going to make it all work out?
Did you know that people on night buses still look out the windows? At least, those who are sober enough to see straight at all… They’re not looking at the view – they can’t see it, it’s too dark outside – they’re looking at their reflections in the glass. Sometimes their reflections even block what little there is to see of streets, sidewalks and stray cats. How often do we only see ourselves in life? How often do we miss what God is taking us through, or where He is bringing us, because we are so fixed on our own reflections?
The Bible never says God will make or dreams come true, it says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) – His purpose, not ours. And God’s definition of what is good for us is different than what ours tends to be. I will never be satisfied with getting ‘what I want’ – only in running the course set before me, and one day sitting in glory, will I feel completed as God intended for me to be.
This summer I met some amazing women – women with different stories. Some have grown up in Christian homes here in Europe but struggled in the overwhelmingly atheist society; others came to faith later in life and are living with the brandings received when they were slaves to sin. Some returned to the States at the end of the summer to be teachers, care-givers and students. Some are single, some are married, none of them are “in-between” stages. All of them have burdens, gifts, paths. But their paths wind in directions we don’t expect – each unique, hand-crafted by God himself. God is taking their lives and using them for His purposes. And what does man long for more than to know his purpose? To know why God made him?
When that kid finally finished his cross mosaic I told him it was really cool (he definitely chose the right beans) and one of the other team members mentioned how unique it looked. We glanced around the room. Every mosaic was beautiful and each one was different.
“Isn’t it amazing,” she whispered to me, “that no one has the same cross?”
I am a firm believer in serving where God has placed you. Many of my college friends and I have talked about how today’s culture is what my mom calls a “meat-market” where everyone is looking for their future spouse. And while education, work and the occasional church project may be included, one’s daily routine is keeping their eyes open for “that person.” How much energy are we dumping into this search instead of into service for the Kingdom? There is such a need for the young, able, single men and women of the church to put their hands in and start working. But it means looking outside ourselves. It means looking for God’s purpose for our lives right now, as single people or as married ones. And it means trusting that God’s plan for us is better and ultimately more fulfilling than our plan for ourselves.
I use marriage as an example of this because it’s something I have always wanted, but the desires of our hearts are many and varied – the point of all this is to direct our focus away from our reflections in the glass and look at the road God has set us on. Because there is a road, and we are on it for a reason.
How many of us wouldn’t have jumped to carry the cross of our LORD up to Calvary? Let us then not balk when God gives us a cross of our own.