It must be one of the worst feelings in the world to watch from the street as a building burns, or to watch from the shore as a ship sinks. You think, If only I could throw enough water on it. Or, If only I could swim fast enough. But no fire extinguisher or life raft you have will do the job.
The same is true in other parts of life.
There are some habits you just can’t break on your own. There are some relationships you just can’t save.
At least not now. At least not in this way.
It’s a terrible feeling. All this helplessness. You might respond by overthinking or people-pleasing or pretending nothing is wrong. You will map out every possible strategy for success.
If only I say the right words.
If only I work hard enough.
If only I am smart enough. Cool enough. Strong enough. Sorry enough.
I gather that when a person tries to break a habit or escape an addiction, sometimes they only get in deeper. It’s like telling a person not to think of elephants; they just think of them more. And so in our attempts to fix ourselves, sometimes our compulsions only gain a stronger hold.
Similarly, at the end of a dating relationship, sometimes one of you will try very hard to fix it. Your intentions are good. Your approach is humble, sacrificial, caring. Your delivery? Foolproof!
And yet, what happens? You actually make it worse.
You want so badly to make things better, to go back to the way things were, to find a happy normal, but you can’t. And whatever you do ends up backfiring.
You relapse. You drive him away. You obsess. You lose.
It’s not necessarily because you planned badly or did it wrong; it’s just because you can’t fix it.
On the one hand, not being able to fix it really is awful and helpless and frustrating. Because if I can’t, then who can? If I don’t, will it ever get fixed?
And yet, on the other hand, our absolute inability to fix it is a comfort. Because it means I don’t have to keep overanalyzing what went wrong and strategizing about how to mend it. Because it frees me to move on. Because it turns the focus away from me and back to Mr. Fix-It.
For the Christian, that’s Jesus.
It’s only because of Jesus that anything gets fixed. He fixes all the things we can’t fix ourselves: our sin, our weakness, our ignorance, our relationships. We can depend completely on him – we have to – because we can’t save ourselves.
During this Lenten season, we can lay everything broken at the cross. We can know that we broke it, but can’t fix it… that we condemn ourselves, but can’t save us… that we die, but can’t live… without Christ.
So our fasting is not a way to fix things. Our fasting is a way to draw nearer to the only one who can.