Flirting with rescue

by +CrystalThieringer    @cdthieringer

img_3592We spent an afternoon at the theatre watching A Little Night Music. My husband and I joined our friends as we do a couple of times each summer. I chose the play this time, in part because Send in the Clowns is a song I loved long before I knew what it was about. It’s a melancholy, sad tune about a couple in a relationship they had no right to be in. Finally, they realize how foolish they’ve been.

“Where are the clowns? Quick, send in the clowns. Don’t bother, they’re here.”

Many of us have been foolish–perhaps not in that way–but we’ve been foolish, haven’t we? Some of us would give anything to move the focus from ourselves while we struggle our way to wisdom. Many of us laugh at the misfortunes of others only because they are diverting the attention from our personal chaos. That is, after all, what the clowns were for. If things went badly on the stage, send in the clowns.

An afternoon spent with friends at the theatre is always a delight, no question. And art speaks to us in the most unexpected times. On this occasion, one line in the play punched me so hard I risked the ire of dedicated theatre-goers, reached for my phone and tried to text myself a note–under my sweater, so the light wouldn’t bother anyone–just so I could remember the essence enough to look up the quote later.

An interlude, right in the midst of Send in the Clowns, has one character saying to the other that one “should never flirt with rescue when one has no intention of being saved.”

I sat between my husband and my friend, and though we had gone because I wanted to hear the song for a project I’m working on, it was those words that have stayed with me since. My friend asked me about it, and I said, “there’s something about them. I’m still working it out.”

We’d seen the play in July, just before starting a cross-country road trip. Kilometre after kilometre passed by, and that steady rhythm encouraged the scene to replay on loop: “One should never flirt with rescue, when one has no intention of being saved”.

Years ago, it was stated that my current husband and I rescued each other. The words may have been meant as a compliment, but I never heard it that way. I still don’t.

What I heard was that I couldn’t resolve a mess I’d gotten myself into.

I heard that I wasn’t capable at making a marriage work–in fact, I’d already shown that. Worse, the suggestion that I’d needed rescuing hinted at an inability to survive on my own, even though it was the only option I’d felt I had left.

And what’s a girl to do then?

That’s not all. Because we had apparently rescued each other, it seemed I’d chosen badly (for the second time) a man who couldn’t face the world any better. The passivity would be damaging, and I doubt our marriage would have survived the process of relationship-building.

In fact, I know it wouldn’t have.

As Canadian Shield gave way to prairie roads and then to Canadian Rockies, I finally figured out the difference.

Flirting with rescue is choosing passivity and helplessness. It’s refusing to make course corrections along the way, because it’s hard. It’s expecting someone else to pick up my pieces, to fix my mistakes. Someone else can be blamed, and someone else can clean up.

My choices therefore are inconsequential. Except, they aren’t.

Intending to be saved means taking steps towards a healthy resolution. It isn’t refusing help when I truly need it, but it isn’t assuming that someone else will solve my issues either. It means surrounding myself with people who want me to be my best, most authentic, healthy self–but at the same time, it recognizes that I might have some hard work ahead of me.

I’ve loved clowns, but they have their jobs to do, and I’ve got mine. There’s no point in confusing the two–and there’s no point in ignoring my reality. The clowns have gone home. When no one is watching, when I’m alone, I choose what to do with my chaos, who to turn to, and how to help myself.

God, make a fresh start in me,
    shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.

Psalm 51:10 The Message


15 thoughts on “Flirting with rescue

  1. I needed this today. I feel as though I have done this a lot in my life. It has been disguised as ” It’s in God’s hands”. Nothing wrong with that, except that in actuality, WE are God’s hands, feet, eyes, ears and heart. So, doing nothing is not an option. Loved this post.

    1. It (whatever it is) has always been in God’s hands, and nothing will change that. At the core of my being, I believe that to be true. But you’re right. We hide behind phrases like that sometimes, expecting God to fix our mistakes. If we live a lifestyle we can’t afford, for example, “it’s all in God’s hands” while we wait for our lottery number to be called. If there is unrest that we could influence but ignore, and we say “it’s all in God’s hands,” is it possible we were supposed to be the flesh on them?

  2. Pretty sure I’ve had the mindset from time to time that someone will arrive to clean up my mess, except that they never come and then I wake up.

  3. I wish you were closer. Your posts always require my reading them twice, and I mull over your words and their intended meaning. Your writing contains well-selected words, and is nearly always written on two levels of meaning. There is usually a moral to your story. Sometimes I get it, and sometimes I know I miss the mark. I would love to have you over for coffee, and talk about life and writing. ❤️

    1. Maybe we can work something out in a virtual sense. Or hey, there’s always the telephone. Many a good cup of coffee has been had that way. Let’s talk!

      (and thank you for such kind encouragement).

  4. Oh my. Flirting with rescue is choosing passivity and helplessness. It’s refusing to make course corrections along the way, because it’s hard.

    Crystal, I see this in my (teen) students, and it feels like I’m always coaching them to leave this mindset behind. And yet, I too “flirt with rescue” in different ways. Like Denise said, I will be coming back to read this again. Thank you for encouraging us to persevere and face the hard growth.

    1. Leaving it behind is tough to do. I’m WAY older than your teen students, and here I am, struggling still. However, the wrestling and wrangling I’ve done in the last few months has been worth it.

  5. I’ve read this twice and still here I sit mulling it over. You have such a unique writing ability. Truly a gift, Crystal. Thank you for such a wonderful share.

  6. 1. I love this musical and this song, and have been listening to album all day thanks to this post.
    2. I was struck by this line as well when I saw the show. Your take on it makes me contemplate the times I have flirted with rescue, and what it has meant for my relationships. I appreciate how your work challenges me to examine things I might not want to, but need to examine.

    1. 1. It’s a great soundtrack. Some of the music factors into a project I’m working on.
      2. I’d never heard the line until the show. It took me months to really sort out why the line stuck with me, but I find myself saying it often. Am I asking to be rescued, or do I want to be saved. It has changed my approach to some things.

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