A couple of years ago, one of my disabled friends called me, devastated because a young neighbour of hers had stopped my friend in the rain and began praying for her and her disability.

Here is part of what my friend wrote to me about the experience, which I share with her express permission.

Cornered in the rain downtown in Lower Manhattan a woman walking under the rain in the dark

Photo by LeoPatrizi on iStock

[This neighbour] had only talked to me once before, when she suddenly tagged along on my walk. I remember thinking that she seemed mature and quite “together” as she asked me many questions about my disability. Was I born with it? Where did I live? What did I do in life? etc.

Then all of a sudden she played her religion card. That’s when I usually lose people because I realize that they are not talking to me because of me…they are talking to me because they feel a duty to make the tragedy that is my life somehow better.

I think I said what I usually do…that she doesn’t have to feel bad for me, because my life is better than most, etc. I could see how it all went “swoosh” over her head. Since then, until today, she seemed to have avoided me. She would rush along the sidewalk, crossing the street to the other side when I was out walking [my dog].

That day, when she suddenly asked if she could pray for me, she towered over me in her roller blades, which made her already tall frame even taller. It started to pour rain outside and I just wanted to head home. Since I couldn’t run, I knew I would get wet. I even started to walk while she talked to me…but she stopped me and prayed for me…on the street…in the rain…

Needless to say, I was mortified on my friend’s behalf, mortified by the way this young girl made my friend feel, mortified by the way this girl represented her/our faith, mortified by the mental image of my friend getting soaked in the rain, shaken by the idea that God might think as this girl does and might not delight in my disabled friend’s whole self, disability and all.  I was mortified, too, by the image of this young girl crossing the street to avoid my wonderful friend.

I thank God that He never avoids us when we come to faith in Him as we are.  I am so thankful that He assures us that we are purposefully “knit together” (Psalm 139:13-14) by Him— and that includes those of us who are disabled.

People have said to me, when I recount situations like this: “But these people mean well.  They’re not necessarily appropriate, but they mean well.”  That is likely very true.  But we are responsible for how we represent ourselves, and God, to others.  We are responsible to avoid coming across as though we’re thinking: “Your situation must be so awful, I just had to corner you and pray…in the rain…I just don’t know how you do it!”

“That day, when she suddenly asked if she could pray for me, she towered over me in her roller blades, which made her already tall frame even taller.”

I am sad when I think of my friend, left with a bitter taste in her mouth (on her wedding anniversary, no less!) feeling completely misunderstood. She felt sure that this neighbour only wanted to gather the courage to pray for my friend’s ‘sorrowful’ state and never wanted to get to know her as a real person.

And that’s not how God thinks and works, at all.

About the Author:

Christina Minaki is a librarian, social justice educator, lecturer, published novelist, and disability rights advocate. She holds an M.A. in Education, specializing in Disability Studies, and a Masters in Information Studies. She lives and works in Toronto, and has been a Christian for 25 years.