What if God doesn’t want to use you? What if He just wants to be with you?
The best stories about God, I used to think, were made of mountaintop moments.
Maybe they started with a valley or some kind of low, but they ended with a poetic spiritual high. There are beautiful stories like this. But this whole expectation became problematic when I found myself atop a literal mountain in a Himalayan village in India—waiting for this big moment where I felt God making clear his purpose for bringing me there—but I didn’t feel anything.
Cocooned in sleeping bags on the floor of a host family’s home in one village, I laid out my disappointment with the trip so far to my mentor and friend of three years. Everything had been moving slow in the last week and half we had been in India. Too much touring, hiking, and sitting around in villages. Even when some locals came and shared their testimonies early in the trip, several of the trip members seemed moved and inspired in ways I did not.
I felt let down waiting for some kind of enlightenment and big moment where someone in India changed everything I thought about God.
I admitted all of this frustration into the darkness of our windowless room, listening to fellow students talk and laugh outside on the porch. It seemed they all had their mountaintop moments when God spoke so clearly to them about why they had signed up for the trip. This moment would change them and their careers, their relationships. I longed for that familiar sense of transformation.
But as I ran my fingers through the cracks of light coming in between the boards of the wall, my friend asked me this simple and profound question: What if God doesn’t want to use you—what if he just wants to be with you?
I was upset with where I was with God because I felt like I wasn’t being used enough. I felt like I had raised all this money and used all these resources to travel thousands of miles, all to just hike around and see India. In my support letters, I talked a lot about teaching English in villages and painted the trip as service-oriented. We did teach English in two different schools, but this took a small portion of our time. It felt as though we spent the majority of our time being with each other and God.
But what if God brought me across the world to just be with me—to show me mountains and rivers, faces and cultures unlike my own? And what if by noting the beauty of those landscapes and people God was with me, helping me to understand more about who He is?
When it comes to thinking of stories that show God’s work in my life, I tend to look for times when I felt like God did something big. I look for the times when my hands touched things or people, moments when I saw mountains move and moments when I felt like His literal hands and feet. I’m thankful for those moments, but realized in that village how small my understanding of God must be if I thought He only saw me as someone to be used.
I never did get one of those moments in India where I got my hands dirty and really did something. Instead, I spent the rest of the trip sitting on rocks and looking at mountains for hours, burrowing in sleeping bags late at night listening to everyone else’s stories about God, and running around taking endless pictures.
Sometimes we can fit stories about God into the kind of narratives we find in books. And as a writer, I will always crave those familiar narratives. But I also love to tell this story where nothing seems to happen—where two people lie on a wooden floor and still God moves.
—Kayla Bloodgood is a senior studying English Writing & English Literature at the University of Pittsburgh. She loves writing, running, coffee, and talking about God.