Pour Me Up.
When I was still an undergrad at Howard, there was a status that each student had to achieve to show that they were financially eligible to continue their studies. The question "Are you validated?" became a catchphrase on campus, because if you couldn't answer in the affirmative, you wouldn't be able to select housing for the following school year and might even get evicted from current housing, couldn't attend certain events, and most of all, you would have your entire school schedule scrubbed and wouldn't be allowed to attend classes. All because you didn't have financial validation.
Because Howard is one of the 101 Historically Black Colleges and Universities, its student body also reflects the state of Black Americans -- one factor being that we as a community are less financially stable than our white peers. This is a direct result of strategic methods that have locked black people out of the same "American Dream" that US culture would have us buy into, and as a result many dreams have been permanently deferred, like going to college. So "Are You Validated?" wasn't only a simple yes or no question, but your inability to keep your bill met to stay in school was as much an emotional struggle as a financial one for many in our student body. The inability to be validated by your institution weighed heavily on many students and it was always a really difficult season for all of us who saw the dreams of friends evaporate as they vacated the seats in our classrooms.
Today, "Are You Validated?" holds a different meaning in my life, and way more personal to the person I am and who I am becoming. I have heard many times that my validation can only come from God my creator; yet I have found myself seeking validation from other people... the elixir of pride is what I have lived off of since graduation from college and it has drained me more than it has filled me up. The jig.
Always looking for water... physically and emotionally.
Today, I write this from a very empty place. Years and years of searching for validation from professors, parents, co-workers, significant others, brothers, friends, foes & acquaintances have turned into me giving up pieces of myself for their approval, scraping the floor for more to give like an empty jar of Nutella. A few years ago, I thought I had slain the beast of living for approval, but I realize I never dealt with the root of the issue -- seeking validation in places and people that could never give me what I was looking for: complete acceptance.
We humans are limited, and because of that, we can never offer full validation of other people. I recently told someone that for the first time in a long time I felt seen, but I realize now that was a revelation of how empty I was. Because I felt overlooked for so long, I latched on to whoever offered a semblance of validation and assumed it was the whole thing. But when I realized it wasn't, I was more ashamed of myself & embarrassed for falling into old ways, pulling from a finite resource when what I really needed was infinite acceptance. Ah, cycles.
Maybe this is what Jesus means when he invites us to drink his "living water", because he promises those who do "will never thirst again." Maybe in my life, this water is the validation that the fullness of who I am is not just okay, but exactly what the world needs. That my life matters just as I am. That I am not ever too little or too much, but always enough. That even when people suggest to me that I do the most, that I am too intense, or too serious (a constant refrain I hate hearing), I hope I can realize that it is not about me, but reveals that we are all limited beings and can only handle each other in doses... some larger than others. Therefore... it's true: I cannot seek validation in anyone but God himself, because he created me just as full as I am, and is infinitely able to help me use everything I've got to change lives and change this world.
I'd like to overflow my life with this living water, so that my identity will not suffer to prove myself to others so they will validate my existence, or hold them accountable to give me something that only God can offer.
Pour me up.