“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” Matthew 14:28
I think everyone comes to a point in their lives, at least once, when they must examine their beliefs. When their choices will prove one way or another what they put their faith in. Sometimes it happens after a great success, and sometimes it happens after a great failure.
I was taught that God has a plan for every human being, and that he will guide us along the way if we let him. I often talk as if I believe this, saying things like, “I really think God wants me to do this;” or “I need to pray about this before I make a decision.” But over the past few years, I have often wondered, “Do I really believe I can discern the will of God? Does He even care what I do or what happens to me?”
Recently, I had an experience that seemed like a clear sign of God’s intervention. My family volunteered to host an international student at the university near our home, and we were blessed with a young man from Japan. After spending some time with this man, I began to feel “called” to go to Japan. As crazy as that idea seemed, I simply couldn’t get it out of my head. I made a bold move (for me) and applied for an English teaching program in Japan. Months later, I received my answer. I had not been selected.
Immediately, I questioned everything that led me to this decision. Was I wrong to want to go to Japan? It certainly seemed like a worthy goal. I knew that most Japanese had no religion and had never heard the gospel. This could have been an opportunity for me to carry the message of Christ to them. But was that really why I was doing it? As I searched my heart, there were many things I was not happy with. A dissatisfaction with my role in life. A desire to be respected and even praised. Perhaps this was why God had closed this door. To humble me.
To my surprise, however, another door opened. While I was waiting for a decision on my application, someone had approached me about another program in Japan. While at that point I thought I knew how I was getting to Japan, I thought this other program sounded like a good back-up. When I received notice of my acceptance to this program, naturally I wanted to believe that this was God’s plan all along. But I still had doubts.
Even now, as the details fall into place, I wonder if I am really seeing God at work. How can I have such little faith? But I am reminded of another follower of Christ, who at times seemed to have very weak faith. You would think that someone who literally walked with Jesus for as long as Peter did would know his Lord at once. But when Peter saw Jesus walking on water, he thought he was a ghost. Even after Jesus identified himself, Peter said “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” Peter wanted to be sure before he stepped out of the boat.
Like Peter, I want to be with Jesus. But, also like Peter, I sometimes have trouble recognizing him. My choices are to wait in the boat, or to step out where I think Jesus is calling me. I might sink, but even that sounds better than staying in the boat.
I know that God can do whatever he chooses. Whether he has specifically ordained this task for me, I can’t say. But I will jump at any chance to know him better, and that is why I will be traveling to Japan this fall.