So, little known fact about me, I’m a bit of a History nerd. It was one of my favourite subjects in school and I still love it. I’ve been known to watch documentaries…for fun. I love movies that are based on true stories. It immediately captures my attention when I know that a movie that I’m watching is about an actual person who lived and experienced those things.
Last night I watched the movie “Harriet”. It’s about Harriet Tubman, the most famous conductor for the Underground Railroad and was personally responsible for freeing over 700 slaves in her lifetime.
*Spoiler Alert* If you haven’t watched the movie or haven’t learned about Harriet Tubman yet, I’m about to spill some details.
Harriet Tubman was born a slave in Maryland. She was married to an already freed man by the name of John Tubman. Around the age of 25 years old, Harriet made the incredibly brave decision to leave everyone and everything behind and run towards her freedom. To escape. She walked about 100 miles (100 FREAKING MILES!) from Maryland into Pennsylvania. She was now a free woman!
After being free for about a year she felt that her family should also be free. She decided to make the dangerous journey back into slave territory to rescue her husband. Upon her return however, Harriet discovers that her husband has remarried and was expecting their first child. Harriet is absolutely devastated and heartbroken. She had come all this way, risking her life for the man she loved and ended up feeling betrayed and alone. I can only imagine that it must have been difficult to even breathe in that moment. She knew God had led her back. She knew His voice. She cried out to Him, “Why bring me all this way just to rub mud on my face? Why did you let me live?”
What was she supposed to do now?
Word had spread among her family and close friends that Harriet had returned and they had come to see her. They decided they wanted to travel back with her. They wanted to be free as well. At first Harriet wasn’t sure about the idea. She wasn’t prepared to travel with that many people. She had only come for her husband. But when she saw how persistent they were she pulled out the suit she had brought for her former husband and handed it to her brother.
“You came for John,” he whispered.
To which Harriet replied, “I thought I came for him. I see now I came for all of you.”
She led that entire first small group of slaves into their freedom, back to their new home in Pennsylvania.
Back at the boarding house in Pennsylvania that she now calls home, sitting in her bathtub, Harriet confides in her new friend (the woman who owns the boarding house she is living in.) This woman is also African American but has never known the sting or the fear of slavery. She is a freed black woman who also happens to own her own business (the boarding house). Something so rare in those days.
Harriet tells her all about what happened on her trek down south. About how her husband married another woman. You can sense the betrayal and heartbreak in her voice. The self pity and wanting to give up. Her friend senses it as well. To which she tells Harriett,
“You are so beyond any man. What is a man to a woman touched by God?”
It was a statement that literally made me stop. I literally got up and went to write it down in my journal. (I’m a quotes gal. I have them written all throughout my journals. Quotes that have inspired me over the years from numerous sources.) It was one of those ‘A-Ha!’ moments. I immediately could see and hear this entire piece that I’m writing now in my head.
What was Harriet’s friend saying to her exactly in that moment? What did she mean by it?
She wasn’t bashing men. She wasn’t trying to inflate Harriet’s ego. She wasn’t telling her that she doesn’t need any man or anybody or that she can do all of this on her own. She was simply trying to pierce through Harriet’s brokenness that, in that moment, was clouding her judgement and her vision for the future. Her friend was holding that same future up for her to see more clearly. To show her, her destiny. Her calling. She couldn’t quit now. Now was the moment that would literally define her and generations to come. She would have to push through her heartbreak and her pain and use it to fuel her purpose rather than allowing it to consume her. And boy did she ever!
What Harriet couldn’t see in that moment was that over her lifetime she would lead and help to free over 700 slaves! That’s combining her work with the Underground Railroad and the Civil War. (She was a cook, a nurse and a spy!) What a legacy. What a woman!!!
What else she couldn’t see in that moment was that just a few years down the road she would meet a man who would become her new husband. A man named Nelson Davis. Not much is known about him unfortunately. What we do know is this. He also was a slave who escaped to freedom most likely using the Underground Railroad. Harriet met him at her boarding house in Auburn, New York. He also, like Harriet became a Civil War veteran. Together they would adopt a little girl named Gertie, run a 7 acre farm while they spent the rest of their lives supporting and fighting for women’s suffrage, african american rights and opening their doors to anyone who was in need (including runaway slaves.) Although their life together wasn’t without it’s hardships, together they served with purpose and intention.
All those years earlier, sitting in her bathtub, crying over a broken heart and an unknown future, she couldn’t have imagined what God had in store for her. Perhaps this scene is an all too familiar one. Especially for us as women. How often have we spent countless moments crying on the phone with our best friend because we’ve had our hearts ripped out. Because life didn’t go the way we thought it should. Crying ourselves to sleep, feeling worthless, wallowing in self pity. Wanting to throw in the towel out of hopelessness. How could anything good come from this mess? We get so caught up in who or what broke us rather than asking the more important question. And that is…why?
As women we are taught and brought up as little girls to wish and plan for our “wedding” instead of being raised to plan and get excited for our LIFE! We plan our entire lives around the possibility of being with a man (and adjust ourselves accordingly) rather than planning our lives around our own purpose and calling. We sit and wait to be chosen when it is us…WE, my dear ladies, are the choosers! And even taking it a step further, God knows what is best for us, even if we don’t in those moments.
So when we do find ourselves with a broken heart, go ahead and do your crying. Let it all out. It’s not healthy to keep it bottled up. Call your best friend and let her encourage you back to life. Let her remind you of how exquisite you really are. And then, start asking yourself the more important question of…why? Why is this happening? Why now? And how can I find the silver linings and run and flourish with it? And to flourish on my own and/or until someone comes along that you can truly partner with and flourish together. But not to wait around for “him” to do so. Get started on it, no matter what your status is.
This is something that I hope to teach my nieces (since I don’t have any daughters of my own). To flourish on their own without the pressure of waiting for someone before they give themselves permission to pursue their calling in life. And if the time does come for them to partner with someone, that it truly is a partnership. That is based on mutual respect, integrity and encouragement. One that will allow them to be themselves and pursue greatness together without having to sacrifice their purpose in life. That they will both be able to chase their destinies, together. To help each other reach and encourage their full potentials, together. As a team.
This is something that I’ve learned the extremely hard way in my 12 years (for the most part, give or take) of singleness. I’ve intentionally been single for the last 5 years. Because I wanted to start over. With a clean slate. And because I’ve realized that being with someone simply because you’re bored, or lonely or you have “needs” isn’t good enough for me anymore. Years from now I never want to look over at my partner and think to myself, “Why are we even together? Why are you here?” If all you want to do is Netflix and chill and float through life for 50 years then I am most certainly not your gal. If you want to partner up to create something that has the potential to be bigger than ourselves, if you want to pursue each others goals and dreams together, encouraging each other along the way, then step into my office and let’s chat. Partnering and building something with purpose, waking up with intention everyday with someone who has the same mindset is such an exciting thing to me. Anything other than that is a waste of my time. And it’s taken a few wrong turns and some close calls (and even a few “almosts”) to realize this about myself.
This is exactly what Harriet’s friend was saying to her. Harriet’s God-given destiny was far beyond and far more important than any man. Than any heartbreak. Than any unanswered questions she may have had at the time. It was more important than her wanting to give up and feel sorry for herself. She had people counting on her. People she hadn’t even met yet. Entire generations that would come after her and continue her work. People who would be inspired by her courage and hard work. Who would find their own courage to follow their calling after hearing her story. She had a responsibility to keep going despite the hurting.
If God would have let her have her way. If He would have let her rescue her first husband like she wanted, perhaps they would have stayed in Pennsylvania and settled down, raised a family and that could very well have been the end of her story. But God had bigger plans for her. Sometimes He has to break our hearts in order to move us forward into our purpose.
You most likely won’t be asked to do what Harriet Tubman did. She is in a class all her own. You do however have your own purpose for being here and that, my dear, is far more important than the setbacks or heartbreak you may have experienced. We can’t see the bigger picture, but God can.
I want to leave you with one of my favourite quotes that has inspired and encouraged me over the years. I hope it does the same for you and encourages you to keep going. Be laser focused on your destination. No.Matter.What.
The woman wanderer goes forth to seek the land of freedom.
“How am I to get there?”
Reason answers, “There is one way and one way only. Down the banks of labour, through the waters of suffering. There is no other.”
The woman, having discarded all to which she formally clung, cries out, “For what do I go to this far land which no one has ever reached? Oh, I am alone! I am utterly alone!”
And Reason said to her, “Silence! What do you hear?”
And she listened intently and said, “I hear a sound of feet. A thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands, and they beat this way!”
“They are the feet of those that shall follow you…
~Olive Schreiner, Dreams