Of all the great books I have read in the last several years, the one that has affected the most profoundly is The Cure, by Athol Dickson. The reason is that I identify with the main character in the story, Riley Keep. After a series of catastrophic mistakes, Riley experienced a change in his life that allowed him the luxury of righting some of his wrongs. He wanted to “fix” people’s lives and correct mistakes from his past.
I don’t know exactly when it began for me, but I too have this desire to “fix” situations and people so that they don’t have to suffer the consequences of their actions or be in need; not if I can do something about it. I want everything to be perfect for the folks I love.
While that may be a noble sentiment, it took me 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. Among those he attempted to save from her situation was his daughter. When Riley offered to fix the struggle his daughter faced, she wouldn’t let him. Her response to Riley said it all:
“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, and I was totally convicted by them. The impact of those words forced me to face in myself a serious flaw that I needed to acknowledge—the savior complex. I just want everything to work out right, you know? As I reflected on this I realized 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.
In Athol’s books, life doesn’t end up wrapped in a neat little bundle with everyone happy and living perfect lives. 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.
I am out of the savior business, so when I feel the urge to step in and “fix” something, I breathe the prayer Riley prayed when the struggle overwhelmed him, “Rescue me.” The cure is not in the quick fix–not for me nor those I love. The cure is something we must work out in the trenches of life, through the grace and help of God. When I feel the urge to step in and “fix” a situation, I am learning to pray, “Rescue me.” As Riley said, “The Lord alone is our cure.”