The Fixers

Lack of any good summer television and a text from my friend Anne Lane telling me that the new season of Scandal was on Netflix and my days were booked for a while. I'd never watched Scandal before.

I can't say that now. I've seen all the episodes, all the seasons. The laundry went undone. The dishes piled up, but I've seen all the seasons.

Basically, the heart of Scandal is about a group of people who fix things. Big things, like had an affair and now my mistress is dead and I'm planning to run for the senate big things. Or rig Presidential elections big things. It's a great show for many reasons, and I wonder if one of those reasons is the satisfaction of watching these big things get fixed.

Because most big things in life can't get fixed simply and easily in one or two episodes. When hearts break because of betrayal or lives are ripped open with grief or the big things like addiction, death, illness, or our own deep, deep wounds pull apart our carefully stitched together personas, we want so badly for them to be fixed. We want someone, anyone to walk into the mess of it all and say, "I've got this," and fix it, fix us. Poof! It's fixed. Go forth with life!

And clergy fall into this fixer trap more than not. People come into our offices and share their heartbreak with us, and part of us mentally starts fixing things. I remember once hearing a colleague, after sharing a story of a friend's marriage troubles, say, "I'm going to help them save their marriage."

I stopped breathing for a bit in shock. Shocked at his hubris, but also my own realization of how all of us - how I - want to be fixers. I suspect some of that need is rooted in our own wounds we want easily fixed. Instead of committing to the hard work of healing and transformation of ourselves with God's guidance and help, we divert our attention and our pain into fixing others. Which, by the way, rarely works.

We might be called to help. We might be called to walk the journey with people. We are called to love them in the midst of the crisis and pray. We may be called to offer our insight when solicited or appropriate to the situation. We are called to offer ways for people to help themselves, even. We can share our experiences and journeys, realizing those experiences may or may not ring true for someone else. But I'm not sure we are called to fix people.

Fixing people assumes we know what and how someone else needs to be fixed, which I learn over and over again, is rarely true. We do not live in anyone else's skin or soul. We do not know the exact nature of someone's brokenness. We may see a surface wound and think we have the perfect sized band-aid, but often that surface wound is not the deep place in need of healing. 

Fixing people also devalues the essence of the journey itself. Broken souls, like broken bones, often need to be held in place to let time, regeneration, and God work their healing powers. Perhaps the real call for us all is not to fix people, but to offer space for one who is broken to be held in God for healing. Perhaps the wisdom is that we cannot fix, but we can offer our brokenness and the brokenness of others to God for God's healing.

Which, in my experience, is not so instantaneous. This fixing, such as it is, often asks us to live without a clear path to resolution. The poet Rilke writes of this type of healing quite beautifully: 

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

Fixing is not healing. We as people of faith are called to healing. May we be wise and humble enough to recognize that call.


June Butler said…
So true. I've an ongoing temptation to be a fixer, and it was a long time before I learned to mostly resist the temptation. I love the Rilke quote.
Meredith Gould said…
What a clear, compelling invitation to consciousness about distinguishing between "fixing" and "healing."

Whenever I see clergy hell/heaven bent on fixing, I know I'm also seeing deep wounds that need excising and debriding before healing can even begin to happen -- for them. Ain't pretty but pretty necessary.
Whitney Rice said…
How often we forget that the broken places are where the light shines through! I am so often guilty of this in my relationship to the church. I keep thinking that we will have "arrived" as a congregation once we fix x, y, and z. Thanks for this reminder.
Gretchen R said…
a professor once told me that clergy the occupational hazard of wanting to "fix" is that we see people as problems to solve instead of humans to love. That stuck with me!

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