I have read a lot of books lately, and they have been great. It’s been a while, though, since I’ve read a book that affected me as profoundly as The Cure, by Athol Dickson. The fact that life doesn’t end up wrapped in a neat little bundle with everyone happy and living perfect lives was a winner for me. Because life isn’t perfect. Even though the story of our lives ends up in perfection for those who know the Lord, the journey is anything but smooth. Life has pain; disappointment often rules the day; the struggle of loss is very real. And that’s where Athol’s books excel and where other books often end up too perfect, ruining an otherwise good story.
So, here is why the story became so personal to me, and why I believe I have had such a difficult time finishing this post: like Riley Keep, the main character of The Cure, I’m a fixer. I don’t know exactly when it began, but at some point in my dysfunctional upbringing, fixing things became a part of my personality.
I want everything to be perfect for the folks I love. And it has taken me literally years to realize that if I attempt to fix everything for my loved ones, they may not benefit from the challenges they face nor learn a single useful thing to help them thrive in the years ahead of them. What they do learn is that someone will fix their problem, and they don’t have to worry about a thing.
Riley blew it big time in his attempt to fix all his wrongs. His actions were not malevolent; he really thought he was doing good things for the folks he loved. But he didn’t think forward far enough to consider the consequences of his “fixes,” and there were pretty substantial difficulties that resulted from his attempt to help. When he tried to fix the struggle his daughter was facing, she wouldn’t let him. She told Riley, “I think sometimes the right thing is the wrong thing. I made a bad mistake. I need to live with this, you know? Not take the easy way out this time. I think that’s how God shows you the way to be a person.”
Those words stopped me cold. I read them over and over. I was totally convicted by them, and it caused me to face in myself a serious flaw that I needed to acknowledge and to deny—the savior complex. I just want everything to work out right, you know? What I’m learning is that what I consider right for those I love may actually be exactly where they will eventually settle, but the path they travel is going to have to be their own. I can love them, I can pray for them, I can encourage them and maybe even offer advice, but I can no longer attempt fix their problem.
I recently told my son that I am out of the savior business. When I feel the urge to step in and “fix” something, I breathe the prayer Riley prayed, "Rescue me.” The cure is not in the quick fix--not for me or for those I love. The cure is something we must work out in the trenches of life, through the grace and help of God.
I am not anyone’s savior. Of course, you already knew that. Thank God, now I understand that too.
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