Hello! I know it’s been a while since I last wrote on this blog, and the reason for that is that I relocated to Spain in January to retrain as an English language teacher. This decision came after months of prayer, discernment and digging into God’s Word, during which time I strongly felt that the Lord was calling me to give up my secure, well-paid (and wholly unfulfilling) job, to leave my family and friends and to follow Him into an unfamiliar land. Naturally, this was a life-changing decision and the path has been far from easy. However, trusting God with this step has taught me a thing or two about how He reveals His will to His adopted children. In my experience, it has always been little by little, or, as they say in Spain, poco a poco.
Humans don’t like this, of course. As creatures wired for survival we naturally want certainty, and sometimes it feels like it would be so much easier if God would only provide us with a blueprint. In reality, though, God doesn’t work like that, because he wants us to grow in faith, love and obedience. Do we love Him enough to want only to please Him, even if it means we never become rich or own our own house? Can we, like the man born blind, trust Him enough to go where He sends us, even if we can’t see where we’re going or what the outcome will be?
For me, it started back when I was still studying natural sciences, while I was still at the ‘inquiry’ stage of my conversion to Catholicism. At this point I didn’t know the Lord very well and was still harbouring the idea that I could be a Christian while continuing to follow my own agenda. On impulse, a friend and I took a cheap three-day trip to Paris, during which time we stayed in a youth hostel in Montmartre (as someone who values her privacy and hates noise, you can guess how much I enjoyed that). Although my friend isn’t Catholic, both of us wanted to visit the Sacré-Coeur and witness the perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. It was while walking around this breath-taking basilica that I experienced the most wonderful feeling of Jesus’ presence, a deep sense of love, as well as the sense that He was calling me to go higher in my walk with Him – to abandon the ideas I had about how my life was going to look and to follow Him, quite literally, wherever He chose to lead.
At this point, I didn’t know where I was going to end up, but the more I prayed over it, the more I knew I had to give up my studies. I was chewed up over this for a good few weeks while His still small voice gently persisted, but when I finally admitted defeat and told my tutor I wouldn’t be returning to my course after the Christmas break, I felt nothing but a deep and sweet peace. I knew it was the right decision.
A few weeks later I was talking to an acquaintance about plans for the future, and I mentioned that I’d been thinking of moving to Europe to teach English. It turned out that she’d done this herself a few years previously, and she recommended training at a well-known language school in Barcelona. I hadn’t even known that this was possible, and the prospect was an exciting one.
A couple of months later I had a week off work and was suffering from a serious case of cabin fever, so I decided to look online to see if there was a cheap, last-minute trip I could take. I didn’t care where to – I just needed a change of air. As it happened, the only place within my price range was a two-night youth hostel (again!) trip to Barcelona. I’d never travelled alone before, but the desire to see this city I’d only read about in guidebooks won out over fear, and I booked the trip.
Barcelona, however, wasn’t quite the paradise I’d imagined (funnily enough, Pinterest never gives you the full story!). My first impression was that it was far too big, noisy and dirty. My initial intention was to check out the language school while I was in the city, but after my first night in the youth hostel, unable to sleep and surrounded by people who spoke with the utmost casualness about taking drugs and having sex with strangers, I lost my nerve. So I spent the time exploring the various churches and cathedrals alone, which were so beautiful I was moved to tears on more than one occasion. More than once I fell upon my knees in the Lord’s presence and told Him that I didn’t care about anything else any more – I only wanted to do His will for my life. He had only to tell me what to do and I would do it. He was enough.
I believe that He heard my prayer. The next day I had some time to kill before having to head back to the airport for my flight home, so I decided to try and find the Sagrada Familia (funny old thing – I like churches). I checked my map, picked a direction and began walking, when it started to rain. I tried to continue, but the rain became heavier and heavier, soaking my jeans and seeping into my shoes. It became clear that I was going to have to change course if I didn’t want to spend the day in wet clothes, so I dived into the nearest coffee shop.
After a while, the rain eased off, and ventured outside again. By this point I’d decided it would be best to skip the Sagrada Familia and make my way back to the Gothic Quarter, so I changed direction and began to walk. A few minutes later, I stopped to check my location and looked up. It was only then that I realised I was standing directly in front of the language school. Deciding that this was nothing short of providential, I went inside and was fortunate enough to have a meeting with the director of studies, who told me about the course and what to expect. I left Spain in a state of elated anticipation, knowing that God had just revealed the next step on the journey.
It would be another nine months before I would see Barcelona again, and while I could write at length about the challenges I’ve faced and God’s faithfulness at carrying me through them, that isn’t the point of this post. I’m now fully qualified and working on a temporary basis for a Spanish language school. In a few weeks’ time, I’ll return to England for the summer. Naturally, I have absolutely no idea what the next step on the journey will be – but now I understand that this isn’t my concern. Sometimes my flesh takes over and I start trying to figure everything out, but then I recall the words of Jesus:
‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
[…] So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’ (Matthew 6: 25-34)
This is a theme which runs throughout scripture, from Abraham to the apostles, none of whom knew where following God would take them. While I believe that every modern disciple is called to put Jesus at the very centre of their life, God doesn’t ask everyone to do something as radical as quit their job and move somewhere where they don’t know anyone and can barely string together a sentence in the local language (for the record, there are two in my part of Spain, which makes things even more difficult). Sometimes the deepest acts of faith require us to keep still, and the ability to find contentment at home or abroad, in any situation, is something which all believers, myself included, have to develop.
So if you want to follow Jesus, if you’re committed to finding His perfect Will for your life, let go of your need to know everything all at once. ‘Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight’ (Proverbs 3: 5)