I have to tell you guys a story.
Last week, one morning after I dropped off the boys at school, I went to go jogging on a trail nearby. Shortly after I got onto the trail a young woman ran passed me, ran ahead a ways and then stopped over to the side of the trail. I walked past her only to realize a couple minutes later that she was walking closely behind me. I was having a really difficult time willing myself to start running so I slowed down slightly hoping she would jog past me. But she didn’t. Instead she slowly crept up behind me at one point lingering a foot away; I could feel her just over my shoulder. And eventually she was walking right next to me.
I had my headphones on and I couldn’t hear anything but it seemed as though she had been walking next to me for much longer than necessary. So I looked over at her and she was looking at me smiling, her mouth moving as if she was saying something. I immediately took my headphones out.
“Hi. Good morning! Sorry, my music is really loud –”
“No, no it’s okay! Do you mind if I walk with you? I just sort of feel like I should.”
My immediate reaction was WTF but she had a warm smile and it felt wrong to say no — I mean, let’s be serious, we were on a trail and I didn’t really want to turn around — so I said yes. She asked if I walked often so I explained to her that I was trying to get back into running and was having a slow go at it. I asked her the same question and she told me she, too, had recently started trying to get back into jogging – and by recently she meant yesterday. I laughed and admitted I, too, started (again) yesterday. I mentioned that ever since having kids it had been hard for me to get back into a running routine and stick to it for longer than a couple months, tops. She congratulated me on having a one- and two- year old. I laughed really hard and then realized she was serious.
“Oh! Thank you. Do you have any kids?”
I naively assumed she was going to say no because she looked so young and vibrant.
“Yeah, I do. Three. But they’re 10, 12 and 17 now.”
I wanted to tell her that seemed impossible, in a good way but didn’t.
“It goes so fast. Lord, does it go fast.”
We bonded over motherhood, not stories about our kids but the experience of motherhood – the ways it’s changed us, the surprising amount of things our kids have taught us and — ironically — the freedom it had granted us. She told me she was ready to have more kids and that she was hoping to have twins. She said the last time she had prayed about it and spoke with God, she was told her next babies would be twins. I didn’t know how to respond because, honestly, the only other person I’ve ever heard claim God actually talked to them was Andrea Yates (and I think we can all agree that God was not the one speaking to her) so I just smiled and listened. She told me she had dreamed she was pregnant weeks before she found out she found out she was carrying her youngest and that those sort of things happened often to her. Over the course of our conversation it became clear that she not only was strong in faith but that she was extremely intuitive and seemed overly attuned to the energies around her.
When we parted ways, nearly two miles later, I told her it was nice to meet her. She agreed. We shook hands and part of me felt like I wanted to give her a hug but I didn’t. So instead I commended her on her willingness to ask a stranger if she could walk with them.
“Thanks for asking if you could walk with me. I never would have been brave enough – if brave is the right word – to do that.”
“Well, funny story. When you walked past, something told me I had to ask if I could accompany you. There was just something insisting that I talk to you and it definitely wasn’t easy, let me tell you! But God kept nudging me to ask and I’m glad I did.”
Suddenly it made more sense why she said she felt like she should ask to join me initially and, surprisingly, I didn’t find it creepy at all. I spent the majority of my two-mile jaunt back to my car thinking about our run-in and our conversation, and I felt oddly at peace – a feeling that’s been hard to come by in the last few weeks. I called Seth to tell him about it, he laughed and – just as I would have before my walk that day – condescendingly brushed off the whole thing simply because she was a “Jesus lover”.
I, like many people I know, have had so many negative and unacceptable experiences with those who consider themselves devout christians and servants of God. Admittedly, I carry more than a handful of negative preconceived notions about “Jesus lovers” in general but walking with this young woman, who’s name I’ll keep to myself, made me realize I had become more like the devout christians I despised, shunning an entire community simply because of their beliefs, rather than the rare ones I commend who love blindly and use their faith to include rather than exclude. Over time, I had put all devout folks into one hopeless box even though being religious doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t believe love is love or make a concentrated effort to fight for equal rights, it doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t believe in science and can’t see the benefits of having access to abortion or notice the effects of global warming and it doesn’t necessarily mean you believe you’re better than those who don’t believe in God or have a different god.
Over the past week, I have brainstormed all of the possible purposes behind our run-in and while I can’t definitively say one way or the other what that is, I figured sharing this story was a good place to start. And ironically, to hit the point home that maybe I should start to be more open minded about this sort of thing, I asked Matty to sing me the ABC’s last week and this was his response:
“A-B-C-D-E-F-G, thank you God for feeding meeeeeeeeeee!”
I blame his school that I love so much. I don’t have the heart to tell him Seth and I (and a handful of farmers and gardeners and, let’s be serious, scientists around the world) are actually the ones that feed him but even if he decides one day that God is the one who feeds him and blesses his food, I’ll love him just the same.
As Ellen would say, be kind to one another.