If you’re like me you’re quite sensitive to all the pain in the world. In fact, most people have had to either turn down their sensitivity or shut off completely. Otherwise, you become overwhelmed and can go in any number of directions including shock, denial, abandonment, etc. But it’s everywhere. And many people come to me for help, advice, or my ear, both informally and informally. And some people don’t use me as they either choose not to do so or they have other people who fulfill that role for them. Either way, I am constantly doing things for other people.
Sometimes it’s as simple as one friend asking me for thoughts and notes on tithing since he was unsure about giving it to his church because he didn’t agree with how they used it. Or someone wants a CD of some American gospel group (why should I have it?). This list goes on. I try not to think about it and let it happens when it happens. But sometimes the list is more painful.
In the same week, one friend found out her boyfriend was cheating by kissing another girl and trying to take her away for the weekend. Another friend who is clinically depressed and withdrawn from university for a semester who started getting better, started getting worse again. Another friend confided in me that he was attracted to other men and the world would call it “gay.” He believes in God and has prayed for these feelings to leave but they have not. He finds it hard to have faith in God and to love others or just believe because he feels he has been given an unfair hand his entire life, from birth. What kind of God does that?
This was over e-mail. So I said some quick things but the biggest thing I asked him to do was to write down every question he had (of God, for God, etc.). I told him to bring it to our next meeting. To be honest, I don’t know what I’m going to have him do with that list, but I have a good idea.
You see the fact is that I have been formally asked by two people in SA to mentor or them or be their life coach. A third never formally asked me but seeing as we meet every week, and he just asks questions, I suppose it is. A friend was scared for me when I explained that this third person (also the boy in the previous paragraph) told me “You’re my fix. I gotta have my fix every week. You’re like a drug.”
There’s a strong need for role models in this country especially male ones. So I’ve somehow fallen in that role not because of me or anything about me but due to the lack and need. The toughest part of the past two weeks started last Friday when I got a call from church. Even though I had just been certified as a counselor two days before and I would do further training for crisis pregnancy counseling since the church’s counseling center wouldn’t open for another month, I was called in.
Apparently, the HIV hotline that we have was called. It was called! Let me explain the significance: no o ne calls it. In fact, the head counselor at church just switched the number to her mobile because of that (no need for a separate line). And the guy who called was a male. Surprise number 2. And the day he wanted to come Monday (the 24th) was a busy day for the nurse/counselor at our church. She called me up telling me that though my official application to work at the church was not in, they know me and trust. Could I come in and meet with him? Ok.
When I met with this young twenty-something man and took down his information and explained how our session would go, he immediately asked me for prayer to start off. I did. He was completely nervous. At this point, after the prayer, he began to sob and cry, something he had not done in years. It felt good. He just cried.
Immediately I began to cry, too. And then I caught myself. As counselors we’re supposed to keep our distance and remain there to listen not to outcry the client. But it’s so easy to let go. After the session, my supervisor-counselor said to me that it’s ok to also shed a tear. I just shouldn’t be sobbing louder and stronger than the client.
It’s tough for people. I even saw the guy the next day and accompanied him to another location to get the test done since my church didn’t yet offer it until we open. Tough times. It reminds me that a rope, a cord of three strands is not easily broken. This life, this way, this walk was not meant to be done alone. And that’s what so many of the people I’ve seen this week were doing. You really need another person (preferably two) to go the distance with you. They help and support you when you can’t walk. Then when you ask where God is you can look at your friends and see that he is right there.
All these people struggle with what it means to be human and I’m learning, too. I think for my one friend what it means to be human is to live in the tension between knowing and not knowing. He won’t get the answer to all his questions. And the answers he does get open up more questions. But he doesn’t stop learning and pursuing. He just understands there is something-someone bigger than the totality and capability of our minds. Questions. . .we might tie them on a helium balloon and release it.