His Words

What to do when you can’t fix what’s broken


elycefeliz, Flickr Creative Commons, http://bit.ly/28PeRYr
elycefeliz, Flickr Creative Commons, http://bit.ly/28PeRYr

Everywhere I look I see things in need of fixing.

I don’t mean the ceiling fan in my bedroom or those potholes in the parking lot at my health club.

I mean friends who are sick and may not recover. I mean parents who are heart sick over wayward children. (God knows if a father’s sighing and a mother’s weeping could “fix” rebelliousness, every long-lost prodigal would be back home by now. Alas, such things can’t; consequently those kids aren’t.)

I see moms and dads who are wallowing in so much personal dysfunction, they don’t notice the kid in the bedroom down the hall who is in major trouble. I see job seekers who have diligently beaten the bushes and the streets and their heads against the wall. And what do they have to show for all that hustle? Unemployed hearts that are beaten down and beat up all at once.

When I was little and bumped up against a broken edge of life, my mom would sometimes say, “If I had a magic wand, I’d fix it.”

Later I became jealous of Jeannie the genie. Remember that sitcom? Remember the cute blonde in the bottle who could blink her eyes while giving a quick nod…and instantly rectify any problem?

This week while watching cable news I had this thought: I’d like to be a Presidential candidate if for no other reason than I would be able to fix ANYTHING.

Gun violence, discrimination, terrorism, joblessness, Wall Street’s woes, the national debt, illegal immigration, melting glaciers—apparently there’s no problem on earth these aspirants for the Oval Office can’t fix.

I’ve noticed that though they aren’t long on specifics, they are strong in tone of voice. To hear them tell it (i.e., yell it), help is just ahead. Sounds like no matter who wins, we’re only months away from having an omni-competent commander-in-chief who is equal parts MacGyver, Einstein, Mary Poppins, and Dear Abby.

Political exasperation aside, I see behind our fixation with fixing things, underneath our attraction to self-proclaimed “fixers,” an uncomfortable reality: Our fix-it powers are minimal.

Ceiling fans and potholes are one thing. But healing a culture, curing an addiction, rescuing a marriage?

Here’s the brutal truth: You and I can’t fix our own messed-up hearts, much less mend the brokenness all around us. We can’t make the world problem-free and pain-proof, not even for those we love most fiercely. But we try, don’t we? Our quixotic forays into a cancer-filled world, armed with our little boxes of band-aids.

In all my years of life, I still haven’t met anyone with a magic wand. (I suspect because God never meant for us to be in charge of outcomes.)

However, I am discovering this:  Even if we don’t have it within us to fix big things, we can at least facilitate the fixing of those things. We can do the little things God assigns us to do—then step aside and wait for Him to do the big stuff only He can do.

We can pray, for example. So I do. My rambling conversations with the Almighty…daily making a case for those I love…trying to remember that God’s heart is good and His ways are higher than mine…struggling to trust that He is working even when I don’t see how.

With the broken, I can do other small things. I can check in with them, sit with them in their pain, listen, nod a lot, be a friend, encourage (hopefully without offering up warmed-over platitudes).

Those are pitiful little band-aids, I know. But ask any kid. Band-aids have a strange power. Even though they don’t actually “fix” anything, they can make a bad thing a tad more tolerable.

The other day, a guy fixed my badly cracked Camry windshield in 40 minutes flat. “You’re fast!” I marveled. “Piece of cake,” he mumbled.

Now if I could just find out which candidate has a plan to fix the problem of flying gravel on our nation’s highways.

9 thoughts on “What to do when you can’t fix what’s broken

  1. “Our quixotic forays into a cancer-filled world, armed with our little boxes of band-aids.” Thank you for giving me the words I needed to make sense of how I feel this week. Bandaids won’t heal, but they do help – especially fluorescent, rainbow-polka-dot, and Hello Kitty ones.

    1. Yeah, why do I always go with the staid, brown ones? Need to bust out and put a little more pizzazz on those cuts and scrapes! Looks like your trip was big fun. Good for you!

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