The Coen brothers, who also happened to have filmed a lively documentary of the Soggy Bottom Boys which they graciously allowed me to appear in, came out awhile back with a remake of the classic John Wayne picture “True Grit” which I’ve found quite moving, with Jeff Bridges and Hailey Steinfield delivering excellent performances. “Grit” being an appropriate word, as the story is hardly rainbows and dramatic rides into the sunset. Just like I like ’em.
I’ve seen the movie I think 3 times now, most recently on a camping trip with family. This last trip, one of the climactic end scenes struck me (If you haven’t watched the movie and are worried about spoilers, go get the darned thing and watch it).
Mattie has fallen in a hole and been bitten by a snake, and Marshal Ruben “Rooster” Cogburn, the alcoholic with a bit of a shaky moral compass, has to get her back to a doctor before she succumbs to the venom. Along the way, he rides her horse to the ground and shoots it to end its misery, as well, so we’ll choose our lessons from this story with care, eh? But I digress. He ends up running with her in his arms an unknown distance, and collapses within sight of his destination, where he shoots his gun off to get the attention of the establishment in the middle of the night. That part stuck with me: the “savior ” collapsing–beat, spent, exhausted, finished–within sight of healing for his charge.
I’m a fixer. I never met a problem I didn’t like, especially if it’s an opportunity to make someone’s day, or bring them into the light. I’ve bitten off more than I can swallow more than a few times in the name of that fixation on fixing. I’ve felt the shame and disappointment when I find I can’t deliver. I’ve got a few volumes-worth of words I wish I’d said in a conversation that didn’t go as it went in my head because I wilted, or the “right words” didn’t come to my head ’til much too late. I’ve had many conversations with the missus and other hurting friends where I’m simply incapable of providing answers like I feel I should be able to. I’m sure most of us are no strangers to that feeling, if you’ve ever made an effort to be a listening ear. I wonder if the Coen brothers cut the scene after Marshal Cogburn’s collapse where he pitches a fit on the ground because he couldn’t stride confidently into the house with the wounded Mattie and fix her right up like a real hero would have been able to. That’s what you get for drinking and hard living, eh Rooster? You could have not got your own horse killed too. Shoulda learned first aid in marshal class. Maybe have a snake-bite kit in your pack or something. Go to the Hermione, thou sluggard, consider her ways and be wise. Always something you could have done to be more prepared. Slacker. Now she done lost her arm.
There is always something more we could have done, isn’t there? I tend to have a different view than Paul: “I have planted, I have watered, and I have given the increase.” Not that it ever works out like that, but there’s no harm in having an impossible ideal, is there?? What did Jesus say… “My strength is made perfect in burnout”? Some folks would have us fall asleep every night in misery because we didn’t do enough for God that day. There’s always another soul out there that needed *me*, and I missed ’em.
No. I can’t fix everyone. I can’t make everyone see the light. I can’t provide solutions to every problem loved ones inform me of.
I can learn my limits – my knowledge and experience, my physical and emotional limits. I can be a safe place for others to share their struggles. I can try to keep the missus’ and my friends’ heads above water with support and encouragement till they find their feet. I can realize when I’ve done all I can do, and anymore is out of my depth, which is both dangerous for me and the one I’m trying to help. I’m not qualified to fix everything. I can rest. I can be a place of rest and light on someone else’s journey, to let them know they may be on the right track. I can do what I can, be patient with people, and trust God to take care of the rest, just like He has with me – how many different people have been huge influences on various aspects of my character and growth? I can spare myself the guilt trip because I couldn’t help someone into the light all the way, and someone else has to take over for me. And when they do, I can do what Rooster did: have a stiff one or two, hit the sack, and be faithful again tomorrow .