Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Hijacked Story

Imagine a scene where you stop to help a stranded motorist. You would not ordinarily stop for a stranger but this man is wearing a familiar uniform and you recognize him from a photo in the local newspaper. Without a word, he roughly pushes you out of the way, tosses your groceries onto the highway and quickly transfers his own groceries from his car into yours. He then yanks the keys out of your hand and drives away in your car, leaving you standing beside the road in disbelief and shock.

Your car has just been hijacked – seized in transit to divert it to an alternate destination. What would you do if this happened to you? Yes, it is a facetious story, but, seriously, what would you do? Christian or not, you are not going to just shrug your shoulders and walk home. You are going to call the police, the Sheriff, the FBI, the CIA or any other official group that has jurisdiction and can help recover your car. What you will not do is shrug your shoulders and let him keep the car.

You will not reward a thief who hijacks your car!

A few months ago, I volunteered to write stories for an organization that trains a type of work dogs and their handlers. I was nervous about interviewing strangers but enjoyed the challenge of taking bits and pieces from different sources and turning them into a story. Each person involved in a story would receive a rough draft to check the contents for accuracy.

The last story I was to weave together from written material – no interview necessary. Before I could read the material, the assignment was changed. Call right away for an update!

Now, doing an interview requires more than picking up a phone and dialing. I have to clear a small space on the desk, dig out the phone with the long cord and move it across the room, grab a notebook and pen, try to remember where I put the phone card for safekeeping, and then dial, dial, dial. I repeated these steps five times within two days, and since my time zone is three hours ahead of the subject’s, the last call was made at 11:30 p.m.

Eventually, he returned my call and late that night I emailed him a rough draft. His response was unprecedented.

I pasted your article into a word document and made some suggestions. Please add the stuff in red, and remove the stuff in blue strikethrough.

You guessed it. The story was all blue strikethrough and red type. He rewrote everything, including the information supplied by another source and his own spoken words from the interview. I was so flabbergasted at his audacity it was late the next night before I noticed he had not only rewritten the story – clearly identified as a rough draft – he had also submitted it.

I will not reward a thief who wastes my time and hijacks my story!

Someone else will have to write the story from scratch. The organization can not use his rewrite of my rough draft, since it was submitted without my knowledge or permission.

And my enthusiasm for this volunteer writing has died. I don’t know if it will revive.

The next time you assume you are more competent and can do a better job than someone else is doing, think twice about the possible repercussions of butting in and usurping control.

This story started with a fictional story of a car hijacking, but there is a spiritual analogy. Many believe God is a bumbling Barney Fife character, impotent and syrupy sweet. They think they can, without consequence, throw out God’s word and replace it with their own interpretations.

God will not reward those who distort, pervert, or hijack his gospel!


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