Anne of Green Gables has been my favorite book for so long I don’t even remember the moment it took that place of honor. For many reasons I identified with the red headed orphan from Prince Edward Island. Her wild imagination, her penchant for losing her temper, the fierce loyalty she has for those she loves. She had a knack of describing things I thought but had never put into words. She helped me define a certain type of friendship. She also defined a term in most friendships that I think all of us crave.
There’s a moment, in a friendship where something will just click in my brain. I meet someone, the conversation will be going on a total normal path and then it happens. That little click. This isn’t just someone I like or get along with. This person gets me and I get them. We understand each other in the way that goes beyond the typical friends who like the same TV shows, have the same sense of humor, or like the same books. There’s a connection beneath all of that. It’s a hard feeling to describe especially if you want to avoid using cheesy cliché words like “connection” “spirit” and other words that make me shudder in disgust. But if you’ve felt it you know what I’m talking about. Anne describes it this way
“An intimate friend, you know –a really kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul”
And really there’s no better definition than that. A kindred spirit doesn’t just like you or even love you. A kindred spirit understands you. Understands the way you are. The way you think. The way you respond to the world around you. Feeling loved is amazing and transformative. Feeling understood is like the icing on the cake. Kindred spirits understand you.
I’ve had many kindred spirits in my life. They’ve been the obvious (my sister, my best friend, guys I’ve dated). And they’ve been the less obvious (the person I always argued with in theology class, the person I didn’t like very much when we first met). And sometimes they’ve been people I’ve never actually met.
I can’t remember the first post I read on Rachel Held Evan’s blog. I’m not even completely sure when I read my first post. But oh do I remember the feeling of reading it. Barely finishing the first few paragraphs before I felt it. The click. A kindred spirit. This woman from Tennessee who had an upbringing very different from my own, a current life the opposite of mine, and whom I would probably never meet in person understood me. When she wrote it felt like she had been living inside my head before she put her thoughts to paper. Her doubts, her theology, her passions didn’t always align exactly with mine, but I always understood them. Day after day I would go through her posts and feel warmth spread through me. I felt this way! I’ve wondered that too. I’m not the only one! Someone else gets it!
When I decided that writing was what I wanted to do with my life my best friend gave me this advice. “Look and see who has the career you want and find out how they got it.” As she was speaking one person popped into my mind. Rachel Evans. It’s hard trying to be a professional writer. My inbox is mostly full of “thanks but no thanks” emails if I’m lucky enough to get a response back at all. The let downs from the outside are nothing compared to the let downs in my own head. The worry that I’m not a unique enough voice. The fear that I’ll never make it. The regret that I didn’t start sooner. The voices from within and without can get so loud sometimes that I can’t hear myself think.
Last night I got the chance to hear Rachel speak. She spoke on gender power dynamics. She talked about things that as a obsessive reader of her blog and books I had heard before. But oh how powerful it was to hear her say them in person. It invigorated me. I felt buoyed up by her presence and what she had to say. After her talk I went up to have her sign one of her books for me. We chatted for a few minutes. She signed my book, took a picture. It was wonderful. And then, as I walked away I opened the book and read the following:
“To Janelle, a kindred spirit and woman of valor”
My heart skipped a beat, and my hands started shaking. There is no way she could have known how important the book Anne of Green Gables is to me. What could have made her choose that phrase? I’m sure there’s a perfectly rational explanation. But, even though some days Evangelical culture drives me batty, deep in the heart of my soul I am a girl who truly believes God is personal and God speaks to his children personally. And when I read that inscription my evangelical heart knew what was going on. I knew that whether she realized it or not, Rachel Evans had been used by the most kindred of all spirits, to speak to my heart. The one who lived inside me. The one who had a purpose and call on my life. The one that sometimes I felt had forgotten me, didn’t see me. He whispered in my heart “I didn’t forget you. Keep going. Keep working. I’m right here.”
It’s just an inscription in a book. No. It’s a sense of being understood. Not by Rachel Held Evans, (although I will always count her a kindred spirit) but by God my Father. I confide my inmost soul to him and he gets it. I yell at him in anger and he listens. I cry to him in fear and he comforts. There will be many more moments in the journey ahead of me where I’ll feel confused, worried, angry, and unsure of the future. But when those moments come I’ll flip open my copy of Searching For Sunday and remind myself of that October night where the creator of the universe took time to remind me of his presence in my life. And I’ll continue walking the unknown path in front of me secure in the knowledge that the one who walks before me doesn’t’ just love me. He understands me.