hough I sensed this might be a serious conversation, I was completely unprepared for what she said once she sat in my office. Eyes bright, notebook in hand, she said: “I’ve been considering becoming a god, and wanted to talk with you about it.”
“Tell me about it,” I managed, and she did. What followed was a tragically painful telling of her life. She was tired of people acting as if she wasn’t there, of feeling betrayed and abandoned by people she’d considered friends, of never being the girl boys noticed. And she was tired of a God who seemed to stand by and let it all happen; thus, she’d be her own god. “If I was a god,” she said earnestly, “they’d have to listen to me, wouldn’t they?”
We talked for the better part of an hour about her life, her pain, and her disappointment with relationships. I listened. And gently asked if it was harder lately to tell what was real. We talked about how this plan to become a god was not reality, but that the feelings that prompted it were very real, and could be safely explored. I recommended that she call her therapist right away to tell him what she had been thinking, and that I suspected an adjustment in medication dosage might help, too. Talk, tears, prayers later, she left my office to call her doctor, and I sat overwhelmed at this poor girl’s pain. I’ve never forgotten her, nor the lessons learned from that encounter.
• Believing something to be true, however strongly, doesn’t make it so. Believing with your whole heart that you can be a god doesn’t change the fact that you cannot. Believing completely that in order to be loved, you must look as close to perfect as possible doesn’t make it true. Knowing with every fiber of your being that people of a different skin color are somehow inferior doesn’t change the fact that they are not. Thinking that you are worthless doesn’t make it so. It’s as easy to believe a lie as to believe the truth. And if you believe a lie long enough, it feels like truth.
• We need to boldly speak truth to one another, to lovingly expose the lies that keep us enslaved. When we come up with some foolishness that makes perfect sense to us, thank God He has placed around us those who can speak truth. We need to learn to listen. We just might be honestly wrong. This is serious stuff: what we think affects our actions, and our actions determine our destiny.
• Are we considering becoming gods? Oh, we’d never say that. Not out loud, not in words. But haven’t we all too often acted like it, striding boldly across the world, a law-adapting colossus of self-determination? We do it every time we decide that we are exempt from Bible guidelines; say, virginity before marriage, or doing something because it’s right, even if it means sacrifice. We do it every time we refuse God’s forgiveness, convincing ourselves that our own puny standards are higher than those of the God of the universe. At some point, we don’t merely disobey. We reshape truth to fit our comfort level, to suit our preferences. We rewrite Holy Writ. Sensing the seemingly hopeless gap between us and the Divine, we think to change the Divine, when, in fact, we desperately need the Divine to stay holy and to change us.
With all that poor girl had to deal with so many years ago, at least she could admit that she was trying to become God.
At least she recognized what she was doing. Do we?
Valerie N. Phillips is the associate director of the women’s residence hall at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, where she has ministered to collegiate women for more than 25 years.