When I first got to Russia I lived in a small apartment that was quite old. Everything needed fixing. I began fixing walls, doors, windows, floors, ceilings and with some success the apartment began to take shape. Then I heard it: the dripping faucet. The kitchen faucet dripped constantly. I knew I needed to fix it. The problem is we have no hardware store in Magadan — no Home Depot. So I tried everything from taking apart the faucet and changing the rubber gaskets and washers. The faucet still leaked and dripped.
The dripping unnoticed earlier now seemed to be magnified and unbearable.
But as I sat on my kitchen floor in front of the faucet, there came a moment of grace: Could I live with a dripping faucet? Could I live with my failure to fix the faucet? Would I suffer this failure?
You see this was a moment of spiritual truth and much bigger than the problematic faucet.
I had come to Russia to fix Russia. I had come to Russia to evangelize and see a great transformation and a large parish with people coming to Christ and his church — great lines of baptisms and great stories of conversions. It had not happened. In fact often when I would return to the U.S. and people would ask me how many parishioners I had after a year of evangelization I would quietly muffle my answer so as not to admit the parish had only one to two new members.
I learned through this failure to fix a faucet that I could also live with the failure to fix Russia. I could instead suffer with her. What do I mean? I mean I can just live the life and share the pain and pray with them and not try and fix each life with some kind of formula. This takes away my control of their life and of my life as I am forced to admit that evangelizing Russia is not my work but the Lord’s.
The Scriptures are a good reminder of this: “For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.” (1st Peter 2:21)
I can’t fix Russia because in reality I can’t fix my life either. I can only surrender it. We can’t fix our brokenness with a new seminar, book or resolution. It is too much and too deep for us to fix. We must surrender our brokenness to the One who has come for the broken.
Maybe this is what Saint Paul meant when he wrote: “I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Strange as that might seem, it is so true. When I face unfixable times in my life I fall to my knees. God becomes much more present as I begin to see how I need him. I see how foolish I have been in thinking I can just slide along on my own with an occasional nod his way. I receive a deeper knowledge of myself and a greater compassion for others who have fallen.
This all comes through facing the fact that I can’t fix my problems. Fix what you can but know the better portion is to surrender all. God bless the leaky faucets of life.
The writer is pastor of the Church of the Nativity in Magadan, Russia.