Didn’t Fix Me

The Gospel According to Dawes, a Modern Ecclesiastes for Our Self-Help World

Connor Gwin / 3.24.21

Taylor Goldsmith is one the greatest living songwriters. A bold claim, I know, but Goldsmith’s band, Dawes, continually releases songs that are musically and emotionally stunning.

It may be that Goldsmith and I share a certain worldview, but it seems that every Dawes album connects with me on a deeper level than the last. I would venture a guess that he is an Enneagram Four. At the end of a video with his wife, Mandy Moore, Goldsmith says, “Yeah, if any of you guys like sad songs with, like, five or more verses, that goes on for seven minutes or something like that, I’m your guy.”

It seems that the band Dawes has their finger on the pulse of the beauty and pain that comes with being human. Their songs often cut right to the heart of the matter and push the listener beyond themself. 

One song on their newest album (Good Luck With Whatever) stands out as solid gold Gospel truth. The song “Didn’t Fix Me” begins with Goldsmith softly crooning,

I went to see a healer
With that mic strapped to his face
Talked about which habits to surrender
And which habits to embrace
And for the next few days or so, I was feeling pretty good
But It didn’t fix me

How often do I run to experts and tactics to solve my problems? I am continually drawn to the newest planner or productivity hack that will make me better or at least will help me do enough. (Ahem. #Seculosity much?) And just like Goldsmith sings, it always works until it doesn’t. The new habits or hacks fade, and the old patterns return. Even if the new habits stick, one morning you awake to realize that the ice cold shower hasn’t solved that one big problem. Goldsmith continues: 

I even started volunteering
With the local Sacred Heart
We feed the homeless on some weekends
We pick up trash in all the parks
And even though we’re cleaning up
The whole damn neighborhood
It didn’t fix me
It didn’t fix me like I thought it would

This one hits a little close to home as a minister in a mainline Protestant denomination that has put service and outreach ahead of almost everything else as though we were “the Rotary Club with a pointy roof” (a brilliant turn-of-phrase from Archbishop Justin Welby).

The shift to service makes sense. It feels like we are doing something — anything — to deal with the implacable problems in the world. And it helps! But it doesn’t solve that one big problem in our hearts. We can quiet the internal maelstrom for a while, but ultimately, even with the purest intentions and most noble heart, we end up burned out with not much to show for our smoldering. 

I got that book you recommended
About the spy in East Berlin
I really like the way it ended
How he forgives his friend who turns him in
And I think I see what you were saying ’bout how
Technically, it should but
It didn’t fix me
It didn’t fix me like I thought it would

The song keeps going deeper into the heart of the human problem. We can know what should fix us. We can have friends and doctors recommend the perfect solution, but often it doesn’t actually do the trick. Technically this thing or book or retreat or whatever should fix me, but — over and over again — it does not. 

I finally got a nomination
For an award that I don’t need
But I say that out of obligation
I really spent hours on my speech
I thanked my biggest inspirations
And the good folks back in Hollywood
But It didn’t fix me
It didn’t fix me like I thought it would

We’ve heard this story a million times before, but it doesn’t stop us from trying to live it out. We know in our heads that the award (or promotion or book deal or whatever) won’t salve the wound, but we go on trying, as we suffer from our case of terminal uniqueness. 

I finally found someone that loves me
And to her, I will be true
She sees the ways in which I’m ugly
And loves me for those reasons, too
And even though I’m feeling stronger
Than I ever thought I could
It still didn’t fix me
It didn’t fix me
It didn’t fix me like I thought it would

Here is the real kicker. The final nail in the coffin of all attempts at justification by anything other than God. When we have transcended all previous attempts to fix that one big problem in our lives. When we’ve found that habit-change, service, intellectual knowledge, and accolades don’t do the trick we come to our last hope — romantic love. 

Romantic love will get us closer than anything else to the fix, and yet (and this is a painful “and yet” to get to) it won’t actually do the job. The grace that Goldsmith describes in his relationship will cure many of the ills that life brings about and leave you feeling “stronger than I ever thought I could,” but it still won’t fix you like you think it should. 

So what then? We’ve come to the end of a five-and-a-half minute exploration of seculosity and we are not left with a solid answer. To borrow a lyric from another Dawes song, “Oh you can judge the whole world on the sparkle that you think it lacks / Yes, you can stare into the abyss, but it’s staring right back.”

At that point of desperation, we find that the abyss is staring right back at us. When all our attempts to fix ourselves fail or blow up in our face, Jesus, the Great Physician, is left standing there holding the cure. 

And what is this cure? What will finally fix me? 

Nothing more than the recognition that I am not the fixer; that God has done for me what I could not do for myself. The grace that I experience in the love of my wife or the cheers of the crowd or any other pursuit is but a foretaste of the love that took Jesus to the Cross and raised him on Easter Sunday. That love has the power to fix, and the work has already been done.