I love book signings, as they always seem to be the springboard for some very interesting, and deep conversation. This past Saturday, was no exception.
A woman whom was in the store had approached me, and said she had been hearing “all about this book” pointing at, and referring to ‘207.’ Periodically, she would venture over to the signing table and talk for a bit, then leave and meander back to talk for some more.
Interestingly enough, from the first moment she came over to chat, I could immediately recognize the signs that she was torn about her feelings relative to my book and its subject matter. Later in the day, she validated my perception – and did that ever result in one, deep conversation.
Confessing that she had not yet read ‘207,’ she asked about the house, and wanted to know more about what had transpired. She was specifically inquisitive as to how I survived such a nightmare of an ordeal. She also made it clear that she believed in the Lord and had herself, overcome great hardship in the past. The more she talked about her journey, the more I could see something very profound bubbling within her, rising to the top: Something that she wanted to say, but was wrestling with how to get it out.
After briefly explaining how the tragedy at 207 shaped my spirituality, she seemed surprised, and replied by stating that it was “interesting” I was telling her how important faith and a strong sense of personal spirituality are, to get oneself through such a time of great pain – and profound evil. It was halfway through that part of the conversation, when she blurted out, “Well, you see, I was talking about your book with my Bible study group and they told me not to even speak to you, or go near you. They also told me I better not buy your book because I would be letting the Satan in.”
“Oh, really? Why is that?” I replied, rather surprised by such strong, and unjustified statements.
Basically, she explained that her Bible study group said that I was evil. Evil? Me? How absurd. Where was this judgment coming from, and on what grounds were they making this claim?
A very close friend of mine happened to be with me for the signing. She immediately jumped into the conversation and asked if these study group members had read the book, or knew me. The woman stated that nobody in the group would even look at the book, let alone read it, and that none of its members had ever met me. She then went on to say that she needed to ask God for protection to even approach me, and speak with me. My friend and I were stunned, to say the least.
I knew the woman was in the midst of a spiritual struggle to speak with me. It was clear that she was torn between the intrigue of my story of personal faith and survival, and the fact that her religion classmates had warned her of an unleashing of all sorts of calamity and evil, including being “seduced by the Devil” by merely coming to speak with me. This was when a remarkable situation unfolded – one so profound, that I will not soon forget how it touched me.
Continuing to ask additional questions, she suddenly realized (and blurted it right out), that I was not ‘evil’ but had such a profound sense of faith, that it was evident it had been the key to what saved my life on more than one occasion while living in 207. She surprised even herself, to openly admit this and within moments of her epiphany, said that she could not wait to go back to her study group and tell them how wrong they were; how inspired she was by my story and how strong my faith is.
In her own words the woman stated, “No, you aren’t evil, or bad, you have incredible faith in God. It’s clear that you are a believer and fought the evil through your faith. That is something we try to teach one another in our study group. Here they were telling me not to come talk to you because of the title to your book, and the content of it. You are really, really strong and this IS a story of faith and God overcoming something wicked – overcoming Satan.”
She continued to thank me for having patience with her throughout the few hours she would periodically wander over when time warranted. She also stated that she felt good to have made the choice to speak with me. Letting her know that she was not the only one who has mentioned this to me in the past, I did advise her that perhaps her reaction was the strongest and most heartfelt. Both of us were equally thankful for the opportunity to have met, and for me, I could not have been happier.
I told her that the message of the day was one of tolerance and education, on a spiritual level. I also asked her to take a good look within, and let this entire experience bring forth a sense of awareness that too often, some religion, seems to prevent. More significantly, I added that this ‘closed-door’ reaction only isolates people and creates fear, such as in her case, rather than an opening of the heart, mind and spirit.
I then told her that I admired her courage, and suggested she allow her personal sense of spirituality to guide her, no matter what she was being told. I reminded her that it was a sense of spirituality that brought her back and forth to my table, and what awakened her; she had tapped into a higher level of spiritual confidence.
I then took a moment to explain my philosophy about 207: No matter how many books that I sell, it is the inspiration my readers walk away with, that means more to me than anything else. Yes, I completely enjoy and am blessed to write about my experiences; the inspiration that my readers become empowered with, is priceless.
As I was leaving the store, I could not help but notice a shift; the woman was truly lighter in spirit. The worry once written all over her face, had been replaced with a new-found joy; even her body language was more confident.
She approached me one last time, and thanked me for my patience in listening to her as she grappled with something very personal. My friend and I could see the surprise in her face when I responded with, “No, thank you. Thank you for sharing your journey with me. This is what matters most to me; to be able to inspire someone and help them in whatever way is important to them.”
Meeting up with family and friends for dinner, we could not help but talk about what an amazing experience the day afforded on a spiritual level. From the store owner’s discussion and commentary about what he took away after reading ‘207,’ to the woman who been embroiled in a spiritual tug-of-war with herself – it was an incredible afternoon. In our opinions, the book and associated discussion, had again led to spirituality opening a door that had been closed by religion.
Also noteworthy of Saturday, is the fact that only once in seven months, has anyone suggested that I change the title and republish the book under a different name. Respecting this person’s opinion, I listened, but do not agree – and for this reason alone:
207’s title and subtitle may have rubbed some the wrong way, and admittedly has probably frightened a few off, yet my message is strong and has been well-received. The irony that someone (such as the lovely woman at the bookstore), had the courage to walk through that ‘closed door’ after having been told not to even speak with me because of a mere title and based on groundless cause, yet managed to learn a very important message about faith, means more than words can say. This one example shows that fear will keep you from growing if you let it, and in turn, that unwarranted fear, can prevent you from making very important self-discoveries that will nourish your soul and sense of spirituality. And that, is the message my story conveys: My title and subtitle will remain the same.
May you all continue to open doors. Thru this, the world will indeed, become a better place.