One morning in a shelter, during a spiritual support group, a middle-aged fellow was sharing some hard experiences. He began by apologizing for his slow speech and thought, saying, “I guess I need to get my meds adjusted.”

Life is a roller coaster for all of us, but those who are chal- lenged by mental illness often deal with a physical and emotional imbalance that tires the soul. I have often heard it expressed in one form or another, “Pastor, I am so tired of this.”

He continued to share how very depressed he had gotten in the past. He revealed his attempts to leap out of life. Multiple times he had found himself, at night, on the roof of a 12-story building with only his heels on the edge of the roof. He would hold onto a fence swaying literally between life and death. Each time he felt he got closer to letting go.

He described one time, though — the last time — feeling the Divine in his chest and understanding how much pain his death would cause others. He stopped this practice.

I thought, as he was talking, how very glad I was that he had been “touched” to hold on. He is a bright, inspiring light in this world, striving to live, do good and see beauty in the midst of great difficulties.

Recently, he had left his backpack open for a minute to go talk to someone. While his back was turned, he said, “Two young punks had poured a cup of coffee into my pack.”

His hurt and anger centered on the fact that this act destroyed a treasured tape at the bottom of his pack. It was a taped message of support from his mother, recorded before her death. He knew the message by heart, but said hearing her voice had always helped him.

Sometimes we are in a connected experience with what people call God and sometimes we are face to face with injustice and destructive ignorance and feel abandoned. It seems we’re wired for both experiences — that is the human condition.

I am not sure we can ever change the total experience, but I know we can aim our compass each day toward connection with the Divine. We can try to be conscious of our own destructive ignorance while we face the destructive ignorance and suffering around us. We certainly can be helpful to each other in clarifying what actions to take and befriending each other through it all.

Before he left the group that morning, he said aloud a prayer of gratitude for us being together.

The Rev. Mair Honan is a pastor and co-founder of Grace-Street Ministry, an outreach ministry with the homeless and marginalized in Portland.


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