Fixing Like the Father
A friend recently confessed to me that she’s a fixer. When she sees a relationship that’s broken, she wants to help. When she spies a problem, she wants to offer a solution. She acknowledges that some things can’t or aren’t ready to be repaired, but still she’s often tempted to try. “I know I try to fix too much,” she embarrassedlyadmitted.
When it comes to parenting our teens, we know we can’t fix every problem they face in life. However, much of our cultural narrative encourages us to try. Your son can’t get to soccer practice because his sister needs to be across town at dance rehearsals? Buy him a car to get there. Your daughter feels her Chemistry teacher unfairly distributes grades? Phone the school for a parent-teacher conference. At every turn, we’re encouraged to ease the conflicts, take away the pain, and fix our children’s problems large and small.
Of course, fixing our teens’ struggles isn’t as easy as buying them things or stepping in to advocate for them every time. But that doesn’t keep us from trying, does it? We want to make life easier, right wrongs, and mitigate risks as our children emerge into adulthood. Even when we commit to helping our children learn on their own or navigate their difficulties, we seem destined to be fixers. Nevertheless, deep down most of us know our children need to learn through challenges, even if it’s hard for us to let them try. Sometimes reflecting on all the ways we try to fix makes us feel a little guilty.
This may come as a surprise, but I don’t think our instinct to fix is such a bad thing. This compulsion we feel to right wrongs or mend broken things isn’t a personality flaw; it’s a gift from God, our Heavenly Parent. As we parent our teens, I’m convinced this may be the perspective shift we need to help us release unnecessary guilt and discern better how to care for our children as they grow.
Since the serpent led our first father and mother astray, God has been working to repair the brokenness of this world. From the offering of his law to Israel to the incarnation of Jesus, God’s redemptive intention has always been to restore, rebuild and recreate. The psalmist tells us that God binds up the brokenhearted and heals their wounds. And the salvation and restoration we enjoy in Christ is only a foretaste of the newness we will celebrate when we are finally fixed in his eternal presence.
Simply put, when you try to fix, you’re reflecting your creation as the image of God. When you look at the brokenness in your life or in the world around you and you want to do something about it, you’re just acting like your Father. When you see your child struggle, and your instinct is to step in, you’re reflecting your Heavenly Parent. God is a fixer, and he made you like him—a fixer too. I love how the prophet Isaiah describes us:
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings (Is. 58:12)
You might read Isaiah’s words and feel affirmed. Perhaps the guilt you feel about your fixing instinct is misguided! You were made to repair your teen’s life. All is well! Again, Isaiah offers clarity. Before he describes us as fixers, he says these words:
The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.(Is. 58:11)
We’re made to be fixers, but God knows there are some things we’ll never be able to repair. Just as we can’t call down rain on parched earth or coax water forth from a mountain spring, there will always be fixing that can only be accomplished by God alone. Our task in parenting? To figure out what work of repair is our calling and what work is God’s alone to do in our teenagers’ lives.
At times, God will call us to lean into our instinct to fix, advocating for our teens as they navigate the rough waters of emerging adulthood. As we care for our children in this way, we can live wholly into God’s promise to us—that he has made us builders, fixers, repairers in his image. Other times, we will need to release our children and their choices to his guiding care, trusting that the things we cannot or choose not to fix will find resolution in his sovereign wisdom. We parent our children in these moments with Isaiah’s promise as our prayer. God will guide our teens always, satisfying them, strengthening them, teaching them his good ways even in the sun-scorched moments of their lives.