If you are like me, there are a whole lot of things around you that you would love to see get fixed. I have a seemingly endless list of projects in and around the house of things that need fixing: the lawn that won't stay green and weed free, the car that can't keep its coolant inside the motor, the garage door that won't quite close, the cupboard doors that won't stay closed, etc. Broken things are just part of the fabric of daily life. And trying to fix them is part of what it means to be responsible.
When we push the need to fix things into the sphere of ministry and relationships, we bump up against some interesting complexities. In this sphere, the desire to 'fix' someone generally is less about being responsible or faithful and more about removing an annoyance, establishing dominance or covering our own failure and shame. In their spiritual parable, The Cure. authors John Lynch, Bruce McNicol, and Bill Thrall address this 'need' to fix one another from this perspective:
When I was in the Room of Good Intentions, I felt a consistent message everywhere I went, even with all the masks. It went like this: 'There's a bunch wrong with you. We'll give you a pass for a while, but eventually we'll present you with a list of all that needs correcting. The sooner you get fixed, the happier we'll all be.' I couldn't take it anymore. That was the unspoken message that drove me out."
The authors are describing a place that most of us who have a sincere desire to follow Christ are familiar with. It's called the "Room of Good Intentions" because everyone in it is living out of their willpower and good intentions while trying really hard to please God. That room stands in stark contrast to another room in this spiritual parable, the Room of Grace, where everyone is living out of who God says they are and the primary aspiration is to trust God completely.
While there is an earnest desire in the room of Good Intentions to measure up to all that we believe God wants of us, the fact is that we never quite reach the standards that we set for ourselves -- regardless of our grit and determination. We just don't have it in us to do enough to be what God wants. We are always bumping up against our own limitations, shortcomings and failures. In fact, we will always fail at doing enough because doing to be is in direct contradiction to the whole message of grace in the New Testament.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God' Ephesians 2:8
Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him' Colossians 2:6
If we continue to beat our heads against the "I-can-do-this" wall, it eventually leads to discouragement, disillusionment and despair. And as we are beating ourselves up for being such a failure,we start turning an increasingly critical and judgmental eye on others to try and mitigate those feelings of worthlessness.
To hide the shame of our own failure, establish our own spiritual superiority, and get rid of the annoying flaws we see in others, we elect ourselves as the pro forma 'performance police.' We project our expectations onto others and then toss the responsibility for living up to our expectations squarely into their lap with a 'it's-all-on-you' tip of our hat. Of course we say we'll 'pray for them' and 'stand with them,'but the reality is that we soon weary of both and they end up being left alone with the burden to perform we have saddled them with. All under the justification of showing them how to please God.
As the performance police, our 'beat' extends across the whole landscape of our relationships -- to our spouse, our children, our extended family, the folks we are in fellowship with, our co-workers, our..., the list goes on and on. There is little that will escape the withering scrutiny of our critical and judgmental eye.
Our innermost thought is, "the sooner you get it all fixed, the happier we (read I) will be!"
To hasten the 'repair', we put pressure on each other to perform or conform. And through our attitudes, words and actions we end up doing damage to one another rather than good. 'Accountability' begins to be a prominent word in our relational vocabulary.We watch one another and critique one another and enable each other to develop better and better masks to ensure that we look right and pacify the demands of those that are keeping score.
But inwardly we're dying.
And we have forgotten that God has called us to nurture and protect what he has put under our care, so that it might prosper.Nurturing and protecting is the antithesis of the compliance and consequences associated with accountability.
Nurturing takes time and vulnerability. Protection takes commitment and patience. Both are necessary to embrace the reality that it is less important that something, or someone, gets 'fixed' than that we experience what it is to trust God completely and depend upon our new identity in Christ...even on our worst day.
At the core, we're just learning to trust and depend on our new identity. We're learning to live out of who God says we are on our worst day.So a statement like 'it's less important that anything gets fixed, but that nothing is hidden' is an example of living out of our new identity. It's a realization that sin finds its power when I hide. That nobody gets 'fixed'. That we've already been changed and now get to mature into who we already are." The Cure
Take a moment and think about your relationships.
- In how many of them are you insisting someone gets 'fixed?'
- In how many have you taken a stand next to that person, believing God for his working in their lives, without qualification or expectation of how that is supposed to look?
- In how many relationships do you have 'performance police' who are expecting you to be accountable and measure up?
- In how many of them do you have true friends and companions that you can tell your story to and that are allowing God to work in your life on his timetable?
Maybe it's time to change our insistence on things getting 'fixed.' Maybe it's time to move out of the Room of Good Intentions and move into the Room of Grace!