Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Prayer and Helplessness

He arrived on my doorstep yesterday, back from his journeying, haggard and with eyes overbright with his illness.

I kept the dog back, and stepped outside to speak with him.  He's a neighbor, and a neighbor in need, but his challenges are beyond me.  Where I can, I help him, driving him to the store or doing odd tasks around the house.  If I don't have the time or I am too depleted to focus on his need, I tell him.  Boundaries are there for a reason.

But mostly I just listen whenever I have time to listen, because he needs someone to listen.  We all do.

In his hand was a paper, a hastily drafted legal document that reflected his pursuit of a lawyer he is convinced is responsible for all of his woes.  I reviewed it.  It was neat, and tidy, and completely insane, a systematic recounting of the demons that have come to inhabit his mind.  

Are you sure you can file this, I asked?  He was sure he could.  But I gently demurred when asked for a ride to the courthouse, and then suggested, again gently, that perhaps the law was not a fruitful place for him to find succor.  I'm not sure he heard me.  In fact, I know he did not.

But he did hear my sympathy at his dental woes, and seemed genuinely surprised at the sympathy.  As we talked, I offered a reminder that perhaps there were folks who could help him in ways that might get more deeply at what actually ails him.

I sent him on his way, and promised to look for help that he might be willing to accept.  A tricky wicket, mental illness is.  So beyond us.   It is easy to feel helpless in the face of it.

And so I pray for him, for calmness for his agitated mind.  Why?  In praying, I remind myself to act as the agent of my Lord's grace.  What use is prayer, if it does not change and guide us in those places where we know we are out of our depth?