My friend, Adam, and I were catching up over lunch in Onward, Mississippi, a speck on the map between Vicksburg and Rolling Fork. People usually journey to this delta community for two reasons. One is to see the spot where Teddy Roosevelt, while hunting, spared a brown bear, coining the term, “teddy bear.” The other is to visit a 100-year-old general store. Recently renovated to include a restaurant, the Onward Store is a welcome respite on a dusty road.
Adam looked up from his plate and asked, “Why did you become a minister?”
I paused mid-sip of the first Coca Cola I’d drunk in six years. Trying to buy time, I took a bite of hamburger and chewed — and chewed — and chewed. I could easily gain another minute by munching on the last five french fries. Many delays later, the best answer I could muster was playful. “Dude, don’t you read my blog? I wrote a whole post not long ago on why I became a minister.”
When Adam did not laugh or even twitch, I knew I wouldn’t be able to brush off his question with a clumsy blog promotion. I had to tell the truth.
“I became a minister because I care about people. I wanted to be a doctor of the heart.”
Adam crossed his arms and smiled. “Are you sure you weren’t trying to fix people?”
“No,” I protested. “If I wanted to fix people, I’d have gone to medical school and become a doctor. Then, at least I could prescribe penicillin to make an infection go away. I could fix the person’s body — sometimes.”
Picking up a piece of twine that had held my napkin together, I rolled it between my thumb and forefinger. “I’m in a job where I’m reminded everyday that no matter how much I want to, I can’t fix people. There’s a great freedom in that. As a minister, I don’t do the fixing. My job is to try leading people to the Fixer.”
There, along a lonely delta highway, a burden lifted. I had moved “onward” from a pie-in-the-sky desire to make everything okay. I accepted that we can’t fix each other. If we try to do so, then who’s in control? What we can do is ask God how to be instruments of his peace to one another, to create space for his Spirit to work in us and through us.
When I first started teaching yoga, in an upstairs room of my first church in Natchez, I frequently ended classes with the song, “Fix You,” by Coldplay. I would invite students to hear the lyrics as God saying to them, “Hey, I’m trying to help you. I want to heal you. I’m trying to fix you if you’ll let me. But you’ve got to let me in. You’ve got to let Me fix you.”
As Adam and I finished lunch and said our goodbyes, I tied the twine from my napkin into a makeshift bracelet around my wrist. I wear it to this day. Now, it has knots in it, and the circle widens every time I slip it over my hand. I don’t try to fix its rough edges.
all good things to each of you,
Read more from Darian Duckworth at her blog.