In the thirteen years we lived in our first home, we dumped thousands of dollars and even more sweat and tears and prayers into it. A small, poorly constructed house, it was less a HGTV-type fixer-upper and more a money pit that had a real hard time passing inspection when we were finally able to sell it. Over the years, we had to pick our battles and often had to “make do” with less-than-ideal situations.
More than once, though, I became so comfortable with things that didn’t work that I lost sight of the fact that something was broken. Exhibit A: my refrigerator. At some point, it started leaking. My husband is pretty handy, and he tried to fix it. But nothing he did made a difference, and so we lived with a leaking refrigerator — for months. A towel or two on the floor of my kitchen became “normal” and something we just lived with until one day my friend finally said, “Why haven’t you fixed that yet?”
I sputtered and huffed and glared at her rude question. And then I wondered, “Wait, why haven’t I fixed that yet?” I told her I was waiting for my husband to figure something out. I told her we had to fix other things first. I told her it wasn’t that big of a deal . . . as she pointedly stared at the full-size bath towel soaking up water. The following week, I called a plumber who quickly diagnosed and fixed the problem, for a price that was much more reasonable than I’d expected. Hurting my handy husband’s feelings, dealing with the hassle of calling and scheduling a repair professional, finding the money to pay for it — all of these had convinced me to just make do. It was fine. Fine! Just a little water on the floor. Every day. Drip. Drip. Drip.
I’d like to say this was the first and last time I got so comfortable dealing with something broken that I forgot it was broken. But before that had been our dryer, which literally shocked me every single time I changed laundry. And since then, it’s been our twenty-one-year-old set of knives, so dull they were more dangerous (and far less useful) than the new set I finally bought. It’s been “just dealing with” family dynamics that hurt everyone but feel less scary than addressing the underlying issues. It’s been making do with threadbare towels and feeling guilty every single time my dentists asks if I’ve been flossing.
Am I writing all this to encourage you to fix your fridge and tell your dentist to put “does not floss” in your chart so he quits asking? No. (Although, obviously, if these pieces of advice apply, go for it!) Why am I telling you any of this then?
I’m telling you about my refrigerator because I’m learning that God doesn’t expect us to become so complacent that we ignore brokenness and pain or deny its existence or, possibly worse, find a bit of comfort in it. It’s just the way it is. Fixing it would be too hard, too costly. I’ll just make do . . .
I’m telling you because I recently read a Bible story that I’ve read many times, even recently. But this time, I read it with friends and discussed the confusing part I’d skimmed over every other time. And it’s changing how I look at making do.
In the book of Mark, Jesus is traveling to Jerusalem and, as He’s passing a crowd, hears a man calling His name. A blind man is shouting for Jesus, asking for help, and Jesus stops. He calls the man to come to Him and says, “What do you want me to do for you?” The man says he wants to see, and Jesus restores his sight (Mark 10:46-52).
What do you want Me to do for you?
Every other time I’d read or heard this story, I was confused by Jesus’s question. Why did He need to ask? Wasn’t the answer obvious — to anyone who saw the man’s blindness, much less to our all-knowing Lord? But as I discussed this with my friends, I began to understand that Jesus wanted the man to ask for what he needed. Out loud. Outright. Perhaps to show humility or to acknowledge his need for Jesus, this man’s acknowledgement of what was broken and his inability to fix it himself was a necessary part of his healing.
Is it possible that Jesus is asking me, “What do you want Me to do for you?” when I feel vaguely discontent or when I lean into my pain as if it’s all I can expect, when I pretend like everything’s okay or become numb to the things that poke and prod at my heart or my soul or my mind or my body? Could it be that Jesus is waiting for me to come to Him and ask for help?
Nothing in Scripture promises an easy or pain-free life. God is no genie, waiting to grant us three wishes. As a matter of fact, Jesus says that in this world, we will certainly have troubles. But no matter how much trouble we face — even when, perhaps, it’s too much for us to face head on or all at once, leading us to ignore, deny, and make do — God never leaves us alone. And whether help and healing comes in the way (or time) we expect, or God surprises us with a different plan, He does answer every prayer and request. It might not be as easy as a new set of knives or as dramatic as restoring the sight of the blind man, but when we ask Jesus for help, He will respond.
For so many reasons, we can be tempted to become comfortable with or even cling to the familiar ache of what’s not working, what’s broken, what’s not quite bad enough to complain about yet. But then we miss what God has planned for us. Just making do doesn’t make us noble or brave or wise. It makes sure we miss out — on God’s blessings.