A few years ago I was asked to write an essay for a newsletter. The purpose of this newsletter was to inspire and encourage people to trust God with their lives. The editor asked me to write about the first time I tried running four years after my legs had been severely injured in an accident.
I was happy to oblige.
I wrote the essay carefully making sure I captured my feelings and the moment with as much accuracy as I could. Here’s a portion of the essay I sent her…
The day after my doctor’s permission to try running, I went to a local trail. I began my normal walk, still not sure if I would actually try running. I wanted to, but I was scared.
When my planned ten-minute warmup was up, I kept walking, telling myself it was best if I made sure my body was warmed up. But fear was really the main reason for the continued walk. I was scared of pain and of disappointment. What if something started hurting so severe, I’d know I can never run again?
I toyed with the idea of just thinking about running, but not actually trying it. Maybe knowing it was an option was enough to make me happy, I didn’t actually have to do it. That way, I could always think of running as a potential … but if I tried and it didn’t work, I would lose that hope.
Oh, the mind games I played that day. I don’t remember how long I walked, but after meditating, praying and thinking through every scenario, I knew I needed to try running. I had to know whether or not I could run. I leaned forward slightly, picked up my foot and began to slowly run. (shuffling would be more accurate)
My legs were stiff, especially the left one. It felt like I was dragging a concrete post. My hips felt uneven, like one was significantly higher than the other one. But I was running and I wasn’t feeling any major pain! (Now in my memoir, Because I Can)
She complimented the essay and then had a few suggested changes for the second to last paragraph…
Oh, the praying I did that day. I don’t remember how long I walked, but after asking the Holy Spirit to give me wisdom, I felt confident he was telling me I should try running. I sensed Jesus would give me the strength I needed. I felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit to lift my foot. I leaned forward slightly, picked up my foot and began to slowly run.
Wait, does she live in my head and hear things I don’t even hear?
What the …?!
I stared at that paragraph for a long time … trying to reconcile what it said with what I had sent. As an editor, she had ever right to edit my essay, but suggesting I change my words to fit a Christianese language/culture/false image she aspired to was way beyond editing.
My shock moved from the changes she made to my essay to other areas of life.
If this person—a church leader, advisor, prayer warrior—was comfortable putting words into my mouth about the Holy Spirit nudging and Jesus giving strength what stopped her from doing that in her own mind? I thought about many times I’d heard her say similar words.
And if she did that, were other Christians saying things like “God told me …” without anything to back it up? Did they justify the lying because they thought they were giving Jesus good PR? Or were they using that language to make themselves sound more spiritual or give a story more creditability to Christian readers?
I wish now I would have been ballsy enough to confront her about it, but instead I told her that I changed my mind and don’t want to run the essay after all.
It was never mentioned again, but it sure added to the faith crisis I was in the middle of. How did I know I could trust any of the “Jesus told me” conversations I heard?
Later I was in a group of people with her and she used the line “God told me so and so.” Some of the others nodded and a few murmured amen.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to laugh or cry… but one thing I knew, I did not believe her.
Have you ever heard someone saying “God told me so and so …”?
Do you think they actually heard God say it?
**Author note: A few details have been changed to protect identities.