Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Stop Banging the Head Against the Wall and PRAY or "Yes, You ARE Your Brother's Keeper"
There simply is no changing the heart of another person. Though we are in some sense always “our brother’s keeper”, we are most assuredly not “our brother’s controller”. Even with our children. Perhaps especially with our children. We long for those we love to walk uprightly, to live joyfully, to experience the death defying grace of God. But there is no manipulating it. We might for a time be able to force right behavior on another person, but fullness of life is strictly an inside job. Still, there is great hope. There is yet one productive avenue one man can have in another man’s soul.
I don’t understand how it works, but I know it does. Jesus continually urged and commanded that we ask, seek and knock, in particular for what really matters to Him: people. Not people en masse; but the electrician next door, the bossy boss, the cousin who is fabulous in every way, the stingy guy at the Chinese restaurant: in other word, individuals. Prayer is the way to every man’s heart, unreachable from the outside, but unguarded and vulnerable from within. Only One can get up under the self and penetrate that untamed, independent, addled, riddled, glorious ruin of the inner man. Only the One who has walked in flesh and bone and Spirit can pierce the self willed drama of a human being.
I’m embarrassed to say I have flailed about in many an effort to change people in my life. I want to make them see, to make them happy, to make them behave. Thankfully, repeated failure has the impressive power of getting through to a first class knucklehead like me. There’s nothing like wearing oneself out in the fruitless and futile to make one engage in looking for a better way.
I have cried many a tear over these past weeks and months, but I have learned. I am still frustrated when I see those near and dear goofing around with folly and that which will never satisfy. But since I still take part in my own nonsense, I haven’t a leg to stand on from the outside.
About 27 years ago, a young man named Ed Wiseman (an apt name as well) met a short, folly pocked, heart hungry young woman at NYU. (That was me). Knowing from the outset there was no changing me from the outside, he began to intercede for my heart. He followed in a long line of folks who cared enough to pray for me, including my now 87 year old aunt and a host of strategically placed people from all walks of life along my broken way. One day, (and here’s where the semi Calvinist in me enters), in a feat of incomprehensible election, God chose to open my soul’s eyes so I could grasp His love and mercy. It is impossible to know why He gave me that unmatched gift. There was never a soul less deserving (and I’m not trying to be humble, believe me…) But there is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that God’s call to other people to pray for my salvation was a crowbar to my locked up, mixed up heart. What no one could do from the outside, the Spirit did from the inside. And these marvelous saints played some unseen, mystifying role in the whole matter. I have not been, and never ever will be the same again. Blessed be His name, who will reward every push heavenward for my sake in the mystery of it all that took down the scales from my eyes.
That’s what brings me back to the prayer chair and the scriptures over and over again: I know life will come. I wish I didn’t have to wait. I wish I could make all those precious gems I love avoid wasted time and heartache. But I don’t know the Master’s time for them. All I know is I can’t yell away, lecture away or fret away the blinders. I do know the promises of God are sure. I do know He instructs His disciples in the hard work of intercession. I do know I’m not my brother’s controller, or my children’s or my coworker’s or my friend’s or my relative’s. But I also know I am most certainly my brother’s keeper. I am honored to do what those who loved me did for me, lo those many years ago. I will cooperate with the Great One to crack the case from the inside out.
“Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.”
Your friend on the pilgrim road,