"Excuse me, Becca? I just need to tell you that this year is going to be the best year of your entire life."
No, I didn't know the guy. He was a customer at the coffee shop I work at. He read my name off my name tag that I wear, chalk written on a blackboard background on the front of my green apron. He also caused a tizzy with my coworkers, wanting to know what that weird church guy had said to me. But to me, it was just the encouragement I needed, although it did come as a shock. I was once used to receiving "prophetic words" like a greeting; the church I was raised in was steeped in amateur prophets, children to adult. But it's been a long time since I've been back there, and it's been a long time since I've been involved in a charismatic church of any sort. I forgot what it felt like to have someone tell you something that God told them to tell you.
In many cases, especially in the later years of my charismatic church involvement, "prophesies" (quote-unquote purposefully utilized) were used as ways to control and manipulate. A church elder prophesied that I was supposed to have many children; this was suspiciously placed after a recent conversation with my mother about how I didn't want to ever have my own kids. A pastor's wife told me she had heard God say that I was supposed to stay at home with my parents rather than going to college; this was during the summer that I was fighting my father (also a pastor at the church) to let me leave home to go to college. Several of the women in the church gave me prophetic words that if I just submitted more, if I just tried to be better, the abuse I suffered would stop and my father would love me again.
I am used to prophetic words being brandished as weapons of coercion. I am used to many spiritual phenomenons being used that way. Church was a battleground of efforts to manipulate emotions and solidify control. I am used to things like this being used to hurt me.
It's not that I no longer believe in the gift of prophecy. I am just extremely wary of it. But it has still been so long since anyone's tried to speak that way into my life that this came as a shock to me.
This man didn't know me. He knew nothing about my life. He was a stranger. But he was able to tell me the exact number of months in my life that have been extremely difficult for me, and to say how hard it had been for me to just keep going. That was when he had my attention, and that was when I had to struggle to keep from showing emotion. The words that followed were incredibly encouraging to me, and I didn't know that I had needed them until they were in the air.
I have started to make the transition from survival mode to building a life for myself. It started slow, with a month of sleeping after I finished my final semester of college. I noticed the change gradually, ever so gradually. It was when I began to wake up without dreading the day in front of me, and instead felt glad to be awake again. It was when I started working at a job that requires my attention and thought, at a place with coworkers who I genuinely enjoy being around. It was when I moved to a place where a family extended their lives and their support to me, a family without whom I don't know where I'd be.
But it's still been difficult, because I've been wondering if this is just a brief respite, or if all my hard work will have been worth it, or if my heart can ever truly be happy, ever. And so those words were the balm my worried heart needed, right when they were needed. And I am going to hope that they are true, but if they're not? It still will not shatter my faith, because I have learned that my relationship with the Spirit is no longer dependent on what other people try and force it to be. It's a relief to know that, too.