It’s okay not to be okay, but it’s NOT okay to stay that way.
I remember hearing this phrase in middle school. I don’t know if it was a Baptist thing or what…but it was clearly a part of my church upbringing. To most people this meant grace. It meant redemption. It meant forgiveness, second chances, and opportunities for improvement. But I had on a thick pair of distorted glasses. And filtering through my lens this statement meant it’s okay that you sucked at life in the past but you better get it together NOW. Don’t ever make a mistake. And if you do hide your baggage and bury the ashes. No one should EVER know!
And so I did. I was excellent at stifling the dirty within. Preaching the Jesus message but suffering under a weight that felt like forgiveness was just a lie. Maybe it was good enough for other people, but not for me. I was the one who had stayed that way. The one who knew right from wrong and wasn’t strong enough to defeat the flesh. The failure.
It didn’t stop after middle school, or even high school, or college, or even now that I have a successful practice. The worn out message and the dysfunctional way I processed stuck. It looks different. I might call it fear of making a mistake, or perfectionism, or approval addiction – but it’s the same thing. The nagging feeling that everyone else moved forward into awesomeness and I stayed that way.
Turns out other people feel that way too…
Like everyone else has their stuff together and somehow we missed the bus. That something went terribly wrong. That we must work unbelievably hard to cover up the ugly.
And when it interferes with our lives we call it depression, or anxiety, or PTSD, or OCD. And there is a VERY biological component to all of these. But there are also generational ways of being that aren’t easily disregarded. Our parents needed things orderly, their parents needs things pretty, their parents parents truly believed it wasn’t okay not to be okay – and so on and so forth and all of us just did what we had to do to survive.
Here I am listening to It is Well with My Soul wondering how it took me this long to realize this is true. That the first part of the message is just as important as the last. That it is okay not to be okay. And maybe it’s not okay to stay that way is less about never making a mistake and more about resting in knowing that even when I do make mistakes, Jesus doesn’t let it define me. That he sees me as perfectly okay. More than perfectly okay. Perfectly loved. Perfectly blessed. Perfectly equipped. Perfectly flawed in all the weak weak ways that push me to call on His strength and power. Power made perfect in weakness. That Jesus is good with me just the way I am. That He died for you just the way you are. That it can be well with all of our souls because it is indeed okay to not be okay because Jesus doesn’t let us stay that way.
And so looking through the dysfunctional lenses of our past, entangled among fears about the present, maybe we can all just decide that life doesn’t have to be pretty. That the cross was never a pretty thing in the first place. Maybe we can just all agree to accept each others ugly because life was never perfect anyways. And that’s more than okay.