I’m a fixer. I’ll admit it. It seems as though even before I see a problem, I’m already at work on how I can make it better. I appreciate being able to make something more useful or more efficient. Perhaps that’s why I had gotten such a kick out of my helpdesk days as a geek in the Evangel University Technical Services office.
Still, what I have found out since then is that what works with machines and operating systems rarely applies directly to work with people. Some events that have happened this week have brought this reality into better focus for me.
AGTS Day of Renewal: Each year, the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary has a Day of Renewal, a time when they set aside the day to day practice to focus in on their pursuit of God as a corporate body. This year, being in the US, I had the opportunity to attend the morning service. In it, Dr. Sheri Benvenuti spoke of her impatience with others and what she thought were their petty problems until her eyes were opened through her own suffering. She said that that suffering, combined with the pentecostal experience enables us to comprehend the situation of those around us in a whole new way that facilitates true ministry.
Ezra Chapter 9: My Bible reading has me currently in the book of Ezra. In chapter 9, he is alerted to a grave problem. The Jews who had returned from Babylon were falling into their old ways. They had married wives from among the pagan nations who had led them astray before the they had been taken away to captivity.
Something had to be done. One would expect the scribe Ezra to sit down at his desk and begin dialing the offenders one by one in order to schedule their discipline meetings, but instead he tears his clothes, sits down in the dust and weeps over the situation.
A conversation with my dad: My dad spoke to me today asking for advice: How do you get a person to see the error of their ways and accept the logical solution, be it spiritual or social? So often, he related, he was met with the rejection, “You just don’t understand what I’m going through.”
Each one of these situations seems against us fixers and our desire to rush in with the solution. Of course it’s not that the people don’t need a solution, but rather we fixers forget that true comprehension of the situation is the first step to solving the problem.
Now, I’m not just talking about hearing all sides of the story. I’m talking about feeling the pain of the situation along with those who are suffering. Dr. Benvenuti admitted that she was quick with the solution before her personal pain, but now she more effectively ministers because she’s “been there” with those who suffer. Ezra hadn’t sinned, and certainly he had the right and the responsibility to meat out justice for the wrongdoers, but it was his public display of sorrow, not his administrative prowess that bought about a spontaneous renewal of the population. Furthermore, the offenders were the ones who carried out the solution to the problem, not Ezra.
So it would seem that people need to see more than the error of their ways. They need more than some set of logical steps to a better life. They need someone to weep with them over their present situation. They need to see that there is someone who truly cares enough to comprehend–to treat them as fellow human being and not just as a problem to be fixed.
A challenge for us “fixers?” To be sure. Still, when it comes to people, God has called us to do more than fix; He’s called us to love.