I remember how in the first few years of marriage Monica and I would sometimes become aggravated with each other when she arrived home from a difficult day at work. Monica loved working at Abbotsford Christian School, but, like with every job, there were days when things just went off the rails. Whenever Monica started telling me about a bad day she’d had, I’d try to listen well and offer advice. Much to my chagrin, our conversations would regularly go downhill with both of us ending up frustrated with each other.
I was baffled. I thought I was being helpful and that my suggestions might begin resolving the issues with which Monica was dealing that day. Yet these conversations routinely stirred up conflict between us.
Finally one day when a post-work debriefing once again turned argumentative, Monica yelled (full disclosure: I doubt she actually yelled, but what she said had such an impact that it still echoes in my mind): “I don’t want you to fix it! I just want you to listen!”
I know Monica is a very intelligent woman. However, my trying to solve her problems communicated that I didn’t think she was smart or capable enough to handle what was going on at work. She didn’t want me to fix anything; she was simply looking for a listening ear. Monica just wanted to know that I loved her and was in her corner.
This was an epiphany for me, and I’d like to think that learning something from this incident has made me a better husband and maybe even a better dad, friend, and pastor.
Monica and I regularly tell this story from our early days of marriage when we’re doing premarital counseling with couples. (I hope they learn quicker than I did!) It came to mind again as Chuck De Groat spoke at Day of Encouragement earlier this month at Dordt College. His keynote address was titled “Pulled in a Hundred Different Directions” and near the start he said, “We feel we need to be fixed when in reality we desire and need to be found.”
I can get so busy and become so distracted from what’s truly important. It’s frustrating and easily leads to conflict with others and within myself. And when that begins to frustrate me, I look for a way to fix it.
Ironically, I cannot fix it. And God would have me know that a fix isn’t even the solution. What I ultimately need is to be found by Him. To recognize again that my primary identity is not rooted in what I’ve done or what I own, but rather in whose I am. My primary identity is that I’m a child of my loving heavenly Father.
Chuck De Groat also said something to this effect: It’s tempting to picture God as someone who’s waiting for me to make my report to Him of what I’ve done. Instead God invites me to come to Him with open, empty hands, confessing that I’m not my own and I’m not defined by what I’ve done.
In many circumstances – including processing with Monica a tough day one of us has just been through – it’s not so critical that things get fixed. It’s knowing I am found – known and loved by family and friends and (even more so) by God Himself.