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The Right Book at the Right Time  

When she placed the book in my hand, I reluctantly accepted it. I did not intend to read it, but to be polite, I even thanked her. I didn’t tell her, of course, that I already planned to throw it away once I got home. She smiled, encouraged me again to read the book, and that was that. I placed the book in my backpack, making sure she saw me do it, and rode away on my bike. 

That experience occurred twenty years ago, and I’m thankful that book never found its way into the trashcan, but, somehow, ended up on my bookshelf—the bottom shelf. There it sat for more than a year, neglected and forgotten.  

Life has a way of springing surprises on us, doesn’t it? The status quo can be suddenly and unexpectedly overturned. A car accident. A financial crisis. A loved one’s death. A doctor’s visit. A broken heart. It can be anything. One moment, all is seemingly well and fine, and the next moment, everything changes. 

I should know—it happened to me. And, like you, I’ve seen it happen to many others. When the furniture of life is rearranged without notice, and the normal routines are rerouted into unfamiliar territory, things can get scary quickly. For me, it was a broken heart. I’ll spare you the details. But if you’ve been there, really been there, you know that the quaint phrase “a broken heart” doesn’t even begin to describe the depths and darkness of what’s happening. Feelings of doubt, insecurity, and rejection, among others, swirl and strengthen where, before, confidence, purpose, and happiness had been. 

For me, a generally upbeat and easy-going person, a broken heart was entirely paralyzing. I just shut down emotionally and socially. Depression, a word I’d heard but never known, now knocked at my own door. I’d look in the mirror and, scarcely recognizing the face looking back at me, wonder if life really was worth living. After all, if life can go so bad so quickly and so unexpectedly, how could I ever feel safe again? 

One day I found myself staring listlessly at, of all things, my bookshelf. My eyes wandered over the titles. And then I saw it—that bottom-shelf book. Something seemed to be saying, take it off the shelf. I instinctively resisted, knowing what kind of book it was, but the sense persisted, and, almost without believing myself, I grabbed it. 

I knew what this book would be about—or did I?  

As it turns out, I didn’t. Not at all. To say that this book turned my world upside down (or, more accurately, right side up) would be a grand understatement. I considered myself a reasonably informed and perceptive person, but this book took me by surprise. I couldn’t stop reading it. Could so much of what I’d believed up to this point really be that wrong? The short answer, and the honest answer—yes.  

So what was it? What was in that book? Why had I been so reluctant to read it in the first place? Well, it w