Monday, April 18, 2005

Not too surprisingly, at times I felt helpless . . .

That's what a friend of mine told me today. I had thanked him for listening to my tales of woe and for his wise advice, and he replied that while he was happy to listen, he had wanted to do something, that he had felt helpless.

Inaction can be frustrating. Standing by and watching a friend's life turn inside-out is something akin to witnessing an auto accident from the street corner. You sense the impending danger and from that moment on the drama unfolds in excruciating slow motion, a hideously realistic movie playing out in front of your disbelieving eyes. You are locked into the role of an enmeshed observer . . . participation is both thrust upon you and denied you at the same time. Frozen in place, your brain overloads in sensory trauma, and all the world fades away except for the tragedy that will forever be etched in your memory. The inability to act denies us the mental defense to later say "Well . . . at least I did the best I could." The inability to act, to engage, to do robs us of the last vestiges of our deluded thoughts that we can, after all, control our lives.

But . . . is that really what happened? In those few moments his friendship allowed me what I so desperately needed: To expose myself to emotional risk without fear of emotional damage. He allowed me to be myself, to feel and not to hide. With my friend, I could be afraid . . . and it was okay. With my friend, I could be frustrated . . . and that was alright, too. With my friend, I could also be confident . . . and he didn't have to ask which emotion I was truly feeling, because we understood it was all of them at once. With my friend I could at long last take my heart from its secure iron lockbox, place it on my sleeve, let it all hang out, and get some precious relief from the awful burden of feeling constantly on guard.

Did my friend do something for me? He most certainly did. He felt helpless, but the reality unseen is that in those few moments he became God's divinely chosen instrument of comfort and wisdom in my life. Do something? More than be a friend? More than give his ear? More than spend his time? Could anyone--truly--could anyone do more than that?

Not hardly, my friend. Not hardly. What he perceived as frustrating inaction I gladly accept as treasure, more valuable than silver, more precious than gold.

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