The word “irreparable” came to me yesterday. It’s not a word I use frequently, so when it popped into my mind I paid attention. The context in which it arose, and one of the main reasons I spent the day in profound sadness yesterday, was in regards to the damage done to my marriage by my husband’s covert narcissism and my inability to speak up for myself.
Now that may sound more foreboding than it actually is. Irreparable does not necessarily mean hopeless. It just means it can’t ever go back to the way it was before.
Irreparable is a call that has to be made frequently by auto mechanics and construction engineers. There is nothing noble in looking at something that is too far gone to be fixed and pretending it can be patched up. Sometimes the car has to be totaled or the structure demolished. If doctors were not willing to give up on body parts that were no longer functioning, more of their patients would die.
A friend of mine had to have his leg amputated last year as a result of a lifetime of diabetes. That damage is irreparable – he won’t get his leg back. It sounds hopeless. But it’s not. It had to be done to prevent further damage, so in that way it was good. And while it may be irreparable, it’s not unredeemable. His loss can be redeemed when he speaks, from his wheelchair, to young diabetics and encourages them to take care of themselves. It can be redeemed when people see him living his life not in bitterness about the lost leg but in trusting the Lord for the future. Good can, and has, come out of a terrible situation.
In the same way, the courage I have now found to use my voice and the behavior my husband has modified will, hopefully, prevent future damage to our relationship, but it won’t fix the damage that has already been done. Just like scar tissue, the effects remain. God turns all things to the good – that doesn’t mean He puts it back the way it was. But He can and does turn ANYTHING around and use it for His glory. We just have to let go of trying to repair and look instead to redeem.
I don’t know what that redemption looks like in the case of my marriage, but I do know Who my Redeemer is. He is the one who conquered the grave. He is the one who “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Eph. 3:20 ESV).
So I think a little reality checking, a little looking at the facts and admitting that all is not as it should be, a little acknowledgment of the irreparable is a healthy thing. Otherwise I might just keep trying to repair it.
I can clearly hear the voice of Dr. Phil in my mind right now.
“How’s that workin’ for ya?”
Yeah, it’s not. Repairing never worked at all. We can, however, rebuild and go forward from here.
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19)