“I want cozy and cute… I don’t want a fixer-upper.”
I remember the doubtful smile our realtor had on his face when he heard those words leave my lips. Max and I had grown tired of apartment living and were ready to make the big jump and start seriously looking for our first home together. It was quite a comical time actually, as I look back. I’m typically a realist (my husband argues that ‘realist’ is just a nice way of saying ‘pessimist’) but when it comes to huge, exciting things like buying a first home, my realist goes to sleep and the dreamer in me comes alive. I was imagining all of the ways I could decorate and style our home to fit my need for cozy and cute while Max (usually the dreamer, except when really huge decisions need to be made and then his inner pessimist, I mean realist, comes out to play) was calculating our expenses and rubbing his brow, wondering if this was really something he wanted to commit to. I was like a little girl yelling, “Look at this! Look at this!” at every house our realtor showed us, while Max trailed behind rolling his eyes, reminding me that we can’t actually buy every house we look at. What a buzz kill.
Our first topic of priority was settling on a price range and deciding whether or not we wanted to save a little upfront and purchase a fixer-upper, or pay a little more for a home that didn’t really require much fixing at all. Well, you already know I wanted a cozy and cute, come ready home, so when I fell in love with a little house right in town that was covered in wallpaper from the fifties and had a wooden deck that looked like it was from the Civil War era, Max was a little confused. To put it bluntly; it was going to need a lot of work, and Max and I both knew that I wasn’t the handy one. I’m more of the, “Can I get you a drink while you plaster that really gross wall?” as I sip my drink, type of handywoman. I’m all for women doing a man’s job if that’s what you’re into, but I really don’t enjoy the smell of wet wallpaper and getting my hands covered in plaster.
Long story short, my MVP of a husband spent the first few months at our new home ripping off layers of ugly wallpaper and re-plastering walls so we could finally start painting. Our 100-year-old house (no joke, she’s old) was a bit of a fixer-upper, but slowly she started to fit my dream of ‘cozy and cute’ and I’ve been in love ever since!
Ok, Sis, here’s the hard truth I’m trying to drive home today – we can fix houses, but we have no business trying to fix people.
Do I have any Fixers in the room?! If the answer is yes, and you’re reading this post thinking, “Crap, she sees me”, then I’m glad you’re here. Because I’m a recovering professional Perfectionist and retired Fixer, and I want to share with you the freedom I’ve gained by hanging up my hat to those two sly mamajamas. I’ve found that my desire to perfect only drives my inner longing to fix, which is great if you’re editing a paper or working to make your home cozy and cute. It’s not so great when you take on the task of trying to fix the person sitting in front of you, and I’ll tell you why. This might make some people mad (I’m more than ok with that), but I’m hoping that instead of anger, sis, you feel sweet relief. Here’s the hard truth – you don’t have the power to fix or change anyone.
I’ve had to learn this lesson the hard way and to be honest, it’s a constant challenge. It’s so easy to look at someone and see their flaws and their festering wounds. From the outside looking in, you know why they react insecurely and lean towards toxic behaviors, and it’s so obvious to you what the solution is. So, you reach into their lives and you attempt to help… but that helping soon turns to obsessive fixing. Then you’re crushed when that person chooses to remain as they are, even though you clearly see what their problem is. If only they would listen, if only they could just make the right choice, their life would be so much easier! Why don’t they see what you see?!
Ugh, believe me, I have entered into this space many times; the frustration, anger and hurt that comes from a place of wanting to see someone you love flourish, but they keep choosing the darkness. I’ve had to learn through a lot of heartache and disappointment that by putting the responsibility of someone else’s change on my shoulders is just as toxic a behavior as the person I’m trying to fix. If the Lord has placed someone on your heart to speak the truth in love, then do it. If you feel pulled by the Spirit to help someone in your life that is struggling… then don’t hesitate. But I would highly suggest that you keep the voice of your Maker at the forefront of your mind when dealing with toxic people because it can be very easy to fall into the trap of making that person’s happiness your burden. Contrary to popular opinion, you are not responsible for another person’s happiness.
In fact, you cannot complete anyone. You cannot be enough for anyone, and you definitely cannot be the source of joy for a crushed soul that is in dire need of healing and restoration. Sometimes our job as followers of Jesus is to plant the seed and step back to allow Him the opportunity to grow that seed. Maybe the seed won’t grow, and that’s what’s tough about caring; people are broken. To remain as one is is a choice and an option, and no amount of ‘fixing’ is going to solve that person’s problem. Change is a choice that a person has to make for themselves. It is not your job to monitor their change and make sure it comes to fruition. It is your job to love and seek Jesus’ voice as to what direction you should go when dealing with that person.
I know the deep pain that comes from watching those you love self-destruct. I’ve witnessed it firsthand and I know the ugliness and darkness that sits in that place. I’ve felt the hot rage and observed the denial that comes from desperately wanting loved ones to step into the light. But when I reach into that darkness and try to fix it in my own strength, I get a little bit of it on me. My own heart starts to feel weighted in a way it was never created to. The heartbreaking truth that we aren’t equipped to change people is devastating, I know it is. But here’s where I draw my hope from in those painful moments of realization, Jesus sees them too.
God, the Creator of the Universe, looks at the person with a love so intense it would drop you to your knees. Jesus sits in that space with them, toxicity and all, and is the only One able to do so with the kind of power that exacts real change. He isn’t disgusted, He isn’t surprised and He is the only one capable of carrying the weight of their sin on His shoulders. That’s where I draw my peace from, that’s how I let those people go. Because when I release that person and my desire to fix, I am releasing them into the hands of the Father. The ultimate Healer, Judge, Counselor, and Lover. He is the only one who is able to make their hearts whole in a way you and I never will be able to do. And I have to be ok with that. I have to acknowledge that my continued prayers for that person hold far more power than desperately trying to fix them. Toxicity is a choice, and you are choosing a toxic behavior when you convince yourself that the responsibility to fix them is on you.
I’m a realist, but when it comes to people I love who are hurting, I’m a dreamer. I dream of the day their eyes are open to the freedom they have in Jesus. I long to see them soar in liberation and live fully in the light of Jesus’ presence. I ache fiercely to see them choose what is life-giving rather than watching them go back to what is life-sucking. Sometimes, though, those changes are slow or… they don’t happen at all. Choices are powerful, and just like the person choosing the darkness has a choice – we have a choice. Are we going to trust Jesus with that person or are we going to sidestep the Maker and become our own god in that person’s life?
Pray until your knees give out and your voice is hoarse, and love them so much it hurts. But do so from a place of clinging to the Throne of Grace, not from a place of fixing. Sometimes we have to let go, and let God.