Vindication and Validation

God followed me into the bookstore this morning.

I don't know why. I mean, well, last night I prayed that I would start to understand my life's work more, my purpose, my calling. Even though I'm leading the blog series this month about Life Purpose, I still don't have mine entirely figured out, and that's actually part of the journey that I'll discuss as we wrap up that series.

So, I just prayed -- that I would dream about it, that there would be some kind of clue as to what I'm supposed to do with my life, my career.

But by morning I had forgotten my prayer, and I set out not seeking validation. In all honesty, I was partly seeking vindication -- I had hoped to, by chance, run into an old friend who had slighted me a few months ago. Why? Oh, I don't know entirely. Maybe to show her that I'm OK, that I'm living happily, that she didn't hurt or break me? That I had somehow "won" a game that she probably wasn't even playing?

I had a doctor's appointment and after, without consciously thinking, I drove to the local cafe, a place where I might run into her. I got out of the car and headed toward the lunch counter.

Then, I can't really explain what happened next. I felt like I was moving on auto-pilot. I walked past the cafe (she wasn't there anyway), and I turned right, ducking into the little bookstore across the walkway. I navigated to my favorite section and started browsing the new-age books and Tarot cards.

And, in that moment, I had a purpose. I just knew it. With every fiber of my being. I was supposed to be standing in that very spot. I felt grounded, my feet literally stuck to the floor. But why? I started looking at the books. Maybe there's one I'm supposed to read? There was nothing new to look at. The same books and decks they've had for months sat on the same spot, on the same shelves. The dust wasn't even disturbed.

I bent down to the lower shelf and noticed one new book, "Lies We Believe About God," by the author of "The Shack." I'll admit it. I rolled my eyes. I was pretty sure I had heard every lie about God ever told, but two people approached the other side of the book stack, and I wanted to appear that I was doing something other than standing in my, "I think I have a purpose spot," looking confused.

I opened to the middle of the book and, like "The Shack," it was a good story, a short story that quickly stole my attention. I read about the writer's mom who was a student nurse during an emergency c-section. The baby was born early, weighing only 1 lb. It was 1946, and the male doctor overseeing the procedure told her to get rid of the baby, that it wouldn't live. Instead, she decided to rock the baby and give it comfort until it passed away. But the baby lived, and she and the other nurses fed the baby and helped it gain weight. The doctor was cruel to the nurses who tried to save the baby's life, and said it would live with brain damage and disabilities, but the baby grew into a healthy child and man, named Harold Munn. He became a minister. The student nurse remained friends with the family, eventually reconnected with the man as an adult, and became friends with him.

When the author wrote The Shack, his mother (who was the student nurse) took issue with the way her son had portrayed God in The Shack -- as an African American woman. She decided to consult with her minister friend, Harold Munn, about her feelings. Here is the last page of the story:

And the waves of validation swept over me. I know I have friends and family who see God this way, but to read a story that illustrates it so beautifully, to read about this author who saw God the way I saw God, yes as a father figure, but as a mother figure too. As a child, as an animal. As a ripple in a stream. Any time someone aligned themselves with good, who chose hope over fear, God was in them. And, of course, that meant that God was in me too.

Every word of this story is 100% true, and I have to tell you this, so you'll know that what I'm about to tell you next happened exactly as I'm telling it to you now:

The voices of the couple on the other side of the book stack came into focus. I was so lost in the story, I hadn't realized they were still there.

Her voice rose happily, "Oh, look! A children's Shakespeare book! It even has Hamlet! Isn't that wonderful?!"

And his, dismissing, demeaning, definitely-not-joking response: "A kids' book, huh? Maybe even you'll be able to understand it. Here's something more your speed. Try, 'Where's Waldo?'"

Before I realized my feet had become unstuck, I found myself on their side of the stack, staring at her. Not him. He had a "Where's Waldo" book pressed close to her face. She was looking down, laughing it off. When he stepped away, I stepped between them.

I wasn't angry, in fact, I felt nothing toward him. But I felt an unwavering love toward her. I saw God in her, and I wanted so badly for her to know that my soul recognized hers, to validate all she was and all she wanted to be.

Facing her, I said, "Sorry to eavesdrop, but can you show me that children's Shakespeare book you found?"

She looked up at me, with so much sadness and kindness and love in her eyes. I mean, some people might be like, "Yeah, here it is..." or "Mind your own business..." or "Why?" But somehow I knew she wouldn't.

She gushed about that book. I fumbled with it, dropped it, and apologized. She said, "No need to apologize! You can throw them all on the floor!" She was joyful, kind. We laughed awkward laughs and talked about our favorite kids' books. I forgot about my friend who slighted me. I was surrounded by the blessings of God in this other person, of Him/Her/It moving through her and me.

All of this happened in less than 10 minutes, but by the time I went back to the cafe, it was empty except for a couple sitting at a table in the corner -- a different couple. As I waited to pay for my meal, I overheard part of their conversation.

Her voice was soft, "I just really want to make sure I'm doing right by her. I want her to be OK, and I don't want to hurt her feelings."

And his voice, dismissive: "What is wrong with you? No, really. What is wrong with you? It's not even your problem. It has nothing to do with you."

And her, defeated, quiet: "I guess there's nothing else to talk about then."

And him, with a laugh, "Well, thank God for that."

I gave her a reassuring smile as they got up to leave. I noticed she was pregnant.

I don't believe in coincidences. I want to empower and validate women, so they can be more than they ever knew they could be. And I want to empower myself while on that journey.

Gretchen PearlComment