As human beings, it seems like we’re always looking for proof.

Proof that someone loves us, as if to say that their words aren’t enough. Proof that we’re good enough, as though someone telling me that I can do whatever I put my mind to goes in one ear and out the other. Proof that something more than this life exists.

Without getting into the whole faith v. science thing, I’ll simply say that there clearly are passionate people on both sides of the fence. Some may even dabble in each.

I went to a Lutheran high school and was fairly involved in a music group there. We toured during spring break, and I had a small collection of buttons from each year I was part of the band. The buttons always had a cross on them, as well as the band’s name. They were proudly affixed to my backpack, along with anything else that was pin-worthy: my name badges from having worked at Disneyland, pins from places I’d visited — it was a backpack that was a gathering of postcards, if you will, from my life…places I’d seen, things that had an impact on me.

Even after high school graduation when I was heading off to college, I remember someone asking me about my backpack. “Don’t you want to take those buttons with the crosses off?” I was asked.

“Not really,” I replied. “If somebody doesn’t like it, they don’t have to look at it.”

I don’t know what has changed, but it’s been a number of years since I’ve felt comfortable displaying anything so meaningful. I think it’s a shame, frankly, and I hope to someday soon be less concerned about what others might think. There was a day when I used to not care, instead choosing to see it as a means of spreading a positive message instead of a solicitation for ridicule. It would be lovely to be back there.

Years ago, pre-high school and shortly after my grandfather passed away, I found myself thinking a lot about heaven. What does it look like? Does it take a while to get there, like an are-we-there-yet family roadtrip?

One evening just after his passing, I spent what seemed like hours crying while trying to fall asleep. I remember being very restless, very fitful, and wishing the minutes weren’t passing by so slowly. Before I knew it, I felt a hand touch my forehand. It was a gentle but deliberate touch, a touch that told me to calm down, be still, not worry about heaven and to not grieve for loved ones who have passed. I didn’t have long hair, so it’s not like I was mistaking some wayward locks for a hand. I wasn’t even partially asleep — I was awake. Fully awake. In a dark room. A hand had touched my forehead lovingly, and there was nobody in my room. My tears stopped, and I’ve never felt more peaceful in my life.

I don’t know if that night in my bedroom had anything to do with my confidence in displaying badges of my faith, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did. If that’s what it takes for me to become more comfortable doing it again, I almost cringe to think what I’d have to experience in order to get back to that place. I remember my parents giving me a dime every Sunday morning to drop into the church offering basket. I was around 5 or 6 years old, and I treated each one like a prized possession, protecting it in my small, tightly clenched hand. But even those early memories of church and God and faith didn’t solidify anything with me until that night years later. I felt like I finally had proof.

Only I didn’t know I was looking for it.

It seems that proof can come in a variety of different forms, shapes and sizes. Sometimes it’s the voice inside each of us that speaks up a bit more loudly than usual. Other times it’s something we see when we’re out driving, running errands or seemingly minding our own business — we take it as a sign, as proof of something that’s been weighing on our minds. It can be an outstretched hand that reminds us of the good in those around us, or a hand — out of the blue — that calms us and quiets our soul. Whatever proof we’re looking for, I’m confident and thankful that it’s out there waiting to be found. Sometimes it just takes listening a little more closely, patiently waiting for its arrival or being open to receiving it in a way that we might not be expecting.

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