There are a lot of people who stick to one belief about God for their entire lives.
I am not one of them.
My search for spiritual truth has been more like a carnival ride than devoutly climbing the stairs to heaven.
With only a quarter of my life passed, I’ve already fluctuated from Bible-thumping Christian to existential nihilist to Universalist to lord-knows what I would call myself now. Hopeful Universalist, maybe?
My biggest struggle with a belief in God is how pie in the sky it seems sometimes. After all, there is no explicit proof of a higher power.
So, I told God, if there is a God, to make themselves real to me. Not through something that could be written off as coincidence, but something undeniably real to let me know that there is something out there paying attention.
This is the answer I got.
“Oh my god, he knows.”
Paul is the author of three fabulous fiction novels; The Shack, Cross Roads, and Eve, as well as one nonfiction book, Lies We Believe About God. Any time or money invested into these books is well spent. So freakin’ good.
I was at this Open Table Conference in June and he was one of the speakers there. I’ve briefly met him a few times and every time I was struck by the grace and joy this fabulous little man emanates.
The rest of the speakers at this conference were also incredible and the whole thing had this way of getting to the core of who you are and speaking to you directly. On the second evening, one of the sessions hit me particularly hard and I could feel my emotions welling up, threatening to burst.
Know the feeling?
I don’t usually do well with my emotions all blubbery and out of control like that, so I moved to the very back of the room as soon as the session ended. A band came onstage and began playing some old time rock and roll and the lights went dark.
“Perfect,” I thought, “Nobody will see me ugly crying.”
Except I didn’t really cry, not at first. I mostly just stood and tried to pay attention to the music in hopes I could distract my mind long enough for the wave of emotions to subside.
As I listened, I became aware of the strangest feeling overtaking me. A deep desire that I don’t ever remember experiencing before. Once it became clear, it was unmistakable: I really, really, really just wanted a hug.
I don’t know why. I’m not a hugger. Like. At all.
Probably because I’ve always been way taller than most people I hug, so really it just feels like I’m smushing their face into my boobs, which don’t offer much cushion anyway, so it’s just awkward. Hugging basically just reminds me of how massive I am compared to most people. And how small my boobs are. Awesome.
But for some reason, I wanted to be hugged that night. Really badly. It was a deep desire radiating from all my pores and felt like it was never going to stop until I got that damn hug. Problem was, I went to that conference alone and the new friends I met there were nowhere in sight.
And then I saw him.
Paul Young was sitting about ten feet away and casually peaked over his shoulder to the back of the room where I was standing. Immediately I thought, “Oh my god, he knows.”
This man knows I need a hug.
He is a small man. And I am a large woman. Out of all the people who would give me this hug on this night, Paul Young and I would surely be the most awkward combination possible. I couldn’t let this happen.
I tried to shut down my need to be hugged but it felt like the more fought it, the more I realized how out of control this need really was.
He stood up, still facing the stage where the band was playing and peaked back at me again. This time I knew he noticed me. It was like a voice in his head kept bugging him, “Hey, uh, Paul? You know that girl back there you hardly know? Well, uh, she needs a hug. Like, right now.”
Over the course of the song, he moved toward me little by little, trying to make it look natural. But I saw it coming from the first glance over his shoulder.
I braced myself for the awkwardness to come but as he got closer, all my insecurities seemed to melt away as I finally surrendered to the fact that this man was going to come all the way back here and hug me.
And that’s what he did, folks. He walked right up and embraced me in a full-on hug. I pretty much started crying immediately.
After a few long moments, we moved to a side embrace and swayed to the music, enjoying each other’s company until the band stopped playing.
“Do you see him now?”
As we were swaying side to side, all I could think about was that scene near the end of Prince Caspian when Trumpkin (the dwarf that told everyone Aslan was never coming back multiple times throughout the movie) finally comes face to face with Aslan.
Aslan lets out a roar in the dwarf’s face that startles him and messes up his hair.
“Do you see him now?” Lucy asks.
God was made real to me in that moment. One single question popped into my mind, “Is this real enough for you?”
All I did was stand in the back of the room and watch the band play. It’s not like I was crying or looked like I needed a hug. If anything, I probably had crossed arms and a scowl on my face in my attempt to suppress my emotions.
But somehow Paul Young knew I needed it. Something told him to get out of his chair, walk back toward me, and give me a hug even though he barely even knew me.
If that isn’t a real God, I don’t know what is.
Have you ever experienced the real-ness of a higher power?
Ever been let down by a lack of real-ness?
I would love to hear your story in the comments!