Travelling around Switzerland is not much of a problem for English speakers because English is so widely spoken. Given that there are four official languages in Switzerland (French, German, Italian and Romansh) you wouldn’t expect the Swiss to be good at speaking English too. But many are!
It was interesting to hear my host switching seamlessly between English, French, German and Italian when I was working in Switzerland last week. We started off in the south of the country in a town called Chiasso, just a few hundred metres from the Italian border. English was spoken less fluently in Chiasso, but the locals still managed to cope with English, German and Italian. At times it seemed that the language of the moment was chosen randomly rather than deliberately.
I believe there is nothing random in the places God has put any of us, or in the languages we speak. God quite deliberately chose for me to live where I live and at this time in my life. While I might feel somewhat envious of the multilingual Swiss, I have to accept that if God had wanted me to speak French, German, Italian, etc., then I would have been born in Switzerland where I could use all of those languages.
The languages I speak are unimportant when it comes to conversing with God. He truly is multilingual and can understand everything from the gurgling of a newly born baby to Chamicuro and Cochin Indo-Portuguese. The fact that God can hear us in whatever language we speak and respond in the same language is not so amazing if I stop and remember who God is.
Earlier today God spoke to me a language that has no written form. I was walking up from town along the aptly named Green Lane and then down the less aptly named Ginhall Lane when I was suddenly struck by the diversity of the plants growing in gardens and in the hedgerows. As I considered the variety of plants, including many weeds, I heard a quiet voice suggesting that I look at everything through God’s eyes instead of my own. Suddenly I realized that there is nothing random about anything. God made it all. It all has a purpose – even the stinging nettles I was careful to avoid when standing in from the road to let vehicles pass.
So many of us think we cannot hear God speak, but the problem is more likely that we fail to listen. We don’t look for the signposts that God leaves in our world – all of them pointing to Him; and we have little expectation of encountering God in our busy, busy daily lives. I did wonder if my Swiss colleague as he chopped and changed languages in our meetings last week would have noticed if God had spoken to him in any of them. But as we drove from Chiasso to Zürich and he waxed lyrical about the beautiful Swiss scenery I could hear God telling me: “There is nothing random in any of this. I made it all.”
“You alone are the Lord. You made the skies and the heavens and all the stars. You made the earth and the seas and everything in them. You preserve them all, and the angels of heaven worship you.” (Nehemiah 9:6 NLT)