I’m a “fixer.” I consider it one of my strengths and also among my greatest down falls. When I see things hurt, broken, or could just use improving, I want to jump in. God has gifted me to be an encourager and to walk along side of people and I am so overwhelmed to say that he’s allowed me to watch how he’s healed and shaped people as I’ve joined them on journeys. StrengthsFinders says I have the “restorative” strength.
But I have to confess something to you this morning. Part of my motivation to fix or restore comes out of my desire for control, as well as often thinking I know what is best. When I see gaps or conflicts in the lives of students I work with, friends, organizations, churches, governments, etc, I see the potential there is to be healthier, to grow, to take a risk. There are times when I am able to have a conversation or give insight that encourages a person to consider what they might do to grow in wholeness.
But the times where there’s really nothing I can do, when I'm completely out of control, I struggle so greatly with sour insides. You know that feeling when your gut turns because something is broken beyond fixing, or so it seems. A physical reaction to things not being the way they ought. That’s sour insides. The grief in your gut, the sad in your stomach.
- There’s nothing I can do about health issues that rattle my family and my friends’ families. There’s no way I can fix it. I try to offer up articles I’ve read for new food choices or exercise options (yeah, guys…I’m a fixer). I have to come to admit that I don’t have healing powers or a cure for cancer, but a spot in my insides began to turn sour.
- Wars raging in our world and global conflicts are heartbreaking, terrifying, and seemingly endless. People offer simplistic, flippant solutions from their safe American living rooms not seeing the layers of political narratives, instilled beliefs, and utter terror that reign in people that look just like us and just like the ones we see as the enemy. Abuse and hurt continues year after year, even within the places and people that have claimed to be the presence of Christ on earth. I get overwhelmed and angry. I get sour insides.
- I grieve in helplessness about the day burned in my mind and heart when we visited people who lived in a dump in Managua, Nicaragua. We handed out snacks and juice to children through our van windows, as it wasn’t safe to even get out of our vehicle. In minutes, our van was swarmed with desperately hungry people who lived among garbage that even contained visible bio-hazard boxes and sharps containers. Our time was short there, as police insisted we leave the area to limit the exposure the Americans had to such an incredible blind spot in the poorest country in Latin America. A van full of energetic and playful students was silenced for the afternoon, as the weight of an issue crushed them. Handing out juice did little to contribute. The issue is so huge and multi-layered. We are powerless to save. And a part of my insides has never unsoured from that day because that’s not the way life is supposed to be.
- I grieve broken places in my story and the stories of those I love. I grieve sometimes that life isn’t what I thought it would be. Finances, struggles with children, broken relationships, lack of career direction, unfulfilled dreams, tragedy, thinking we'd be "ahead" of where we are in life by now (whatever that even means). Circumstances that persist despite proactivity. People that decide they don't respect, value, or even like you just because. I find myself and others utterly out of control and at the mercy of so many factors. And my insides sour for a moment more.
- I don’t have any ability to change the minds or soften the words of people that vehemently and brutally disagree in hurtful ugliness within politics, race issues, community issues, and even in my very own church body. And this morning I ached from sour insides and gut grief.
Like so many other days, I’m forced to see my inability to be the savior and stop to plead with the One who is. There’s some days where I’m so overwhelmed by what I can’t control. Jesus speaks gently:
“Take heart, I have overcome the world.”
“Take heart, I have overcome the world.”
”Come to me, weary one. You’re carrying such heavy burdens. I’ll give you rest.”
“Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Gut healing words. Everything isn’t magically better, but in that time, to remember once again that Christ is King and he is the hope that will never disappoint, is enough (Rom. 5:5). As songwriter, JJ Heller, put so eloquently, "sometimes I don't know what you're doing, but I know who you are." (Check out the amazing song here.)
The truth is, if we could fix the world, if we could even fix ourselves, we wouldn’t need Jesus'--his saving death and resurrection--and we would quickly forget him. I know I would be in great danger of doing so. But we desperately see the need. Our sour insides plead for a Savior and his “shalom” – that everything would be as it ought, whole and full of peace. I was reminded once again this week of the power of praying “shalom” over people, situations, and seemingly hopeless conflicts. Because I believe that there will be a day when the shalom of Christ will reign in fullness and all will be as it ought. We pray for glimpses of it now.
So I pray once again. Turning over my sour insides to my Savior. Confessing my need for control and my inability to save. Pleading for shalom where my efforts fall short. And resting in the love of the One who overcame the world.
Christ, grant us your shalom and give us good bellies.