On a recent Sunday following a preaching assignment, I was craving a fish sandwich. I missed the turn off the four-lane for a fast-food place I knew had a big one, so I ended up at another restaurant I had studiously avoided.

Once I got my order, I knew why I didn’t go there. The sandwich they offered was tiny and mostly tartar sauce. I went to the men’s room after my “lunch” to get the residue off my hands. There was no hot water, so I turned on the cold. Trouble was, I couldn’t turn it off when I was finished.

For some reason, I felt a responsibility to fix the problem. I moved the handle to the left; the water kept trickling out. To the right, it gushed, with some ending up on my suit. I fiddled with the knob for a good minute or two, but finally gave up and left the water running.

I thought about my efforts as I drove home. Why was it up to me to try to turn off the water when the management obviously didn’t care enough to maintain their restroom? What made me think I could fix the faucet anyway? And why did I want to help them, especially when my experience at the place was only passable at best, leaving me wanting a fish sandwich that would satisfy my hunger?

The best answer I could come up with was “wiring.” It’s in my nature to try to help. And I like to leave things better than I found them, even if it’s a faulty faucet in a poorly-maintained fast-food joint I’ll never go to again. And, if I didn’t get that water turned off, would anybody else care enough to try?

Of course, I’m not alone in my desire to help, to make things better, to fix what’s wrong, be it a leaky faucet or some big systemic problem in society. Sometimes we have success, if not in finding a permanent solution, then at least in doing a temporary repair. We help friends find a compromise in their squabbling, maybe even a third way neither had thought of. We invent a product or devise a process that answers a need or brings people together. We share with newlyweds our wisdom gained from years of marriage, and they find a way through difficulties.

But not everything can be fixed or even patched. Sometimes organizations are so broken that no amount of re-imagining, goal-setting or board and personnel replacement will deal with the fundamental, systemic dysfunction. Relationships become so twisted with hate and recrimination that the best counselor will throw up his or her hands in frustration. Someone’s body becomes so diseased, his or her mind so chaotic, that medicines and therapy fail to make a difference. The promise of the rock song that “I will fix you” (Coldplay) becomes impossible to fulfill.

All this is simply to say that we can do some things, but not everything. Being human means being limited and being a healthy human means accepting our limitations. Only God can do the impossible. Only God can make “all things” new. It is only in Christ that “everything holds together.”

Guaranteed forever.

© 2008 by Tom Cheatham

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