“How are you?” — I’m okay! translated as: I’m fine! That’s the usual jargon when you do not want to say anything more in particular. Conventional fill-ins or start-and-finish-and-be-done-with-it tactics. Just a hello… bye-bye!
Then if one day, instead of the usual expected answer you are confronted with a: “Umm, I’m not okay, not good!” the whole conversation takes on a different tune. A concerned: “Really? What’s up?” Then the two become more personal as one relates to the other his/her frame of mind or body. Things are not okay!
The “I’m fine, I’m okay” conversation stops with the exchange of these meaningless niceties, and we thus miss a chance to really encounter the other person in his/her actual reality, or to disclose the pain we hold in our own heart. The “I’m fine” response can be a cover-up or mask we put on when we don’t intend or don’t dare or feel too embarrassed to reveal ourselves to the other at a deeper and more personal level. We miss the chance to be really in contact with another. We isolate or alienate ourselves, recoiling into our proverbial shell, and we try to live life alone.
What a blessing, if one day we find someone to whom we can honestly say: “I’m not okay…” What concern, what tenderness, even what healing we forfeit in those other shallow encounters!
To be ‘not okay’ is okay. Nobody is ‘okay’ all the time! Nor for that matter is anyone ‘not okay’ all the time! The not-okay intervals in life are actually life-savers. They are the breathing spaces God gives us in our endless pursuit of who knows what. They show us our humanness and can be wonderful moments to enjoy our vulnerability, our need for each other, to pause in our needless striving to play God, or to pose as the impeccable, perfect and all-holy ones that we are actually not! It is a time for introspection, for sifting priorities — what actually is important and what can wait, a stopping at the crossroads, a precious moment of taking in what life is all about, how life is treating me and how I am dealing with that wonderful gift of life that God has given me.
A time to watch the stars, to hear the birds sing, to see the waves lapping the shore, to enjoy the gentle breeze of an otherwise warm evening and to listen to the music of creation … in a word to stop and just take in the mystery and wonder of life. We usually don’t have time for all this in our hectic ‘okay states’ when we feel on top of the world, full of pep and energy, sure of ourselves and gloating over our achievements. But when our feet drag in a ‘not okay’ situation, when we are filled with uncertainty, or fear, or disappointment … that is the moment of grace God was waiting for… to touch us, to speak to us, to let us feel Him near, very near, nearer than we ever thought possible.
God loves us most in our ‘not okay’ states. When someone discloses to Him his/her brokenness, or when God sees someone in trouble! God is closest to us when we are down and disheartened. No, let me correct myself. We are more aware of God, His love and protection, when we are down and disheartened.
Thus these ‘not okay’ moments are blessings in disguise, a way in which God tries to break through our reserve to reach us and to raise our faltering spirits, very much as children get more attention from their parents when they are sick or in trouble. He is there for us all the time, but we become more aware of Him especially when our own self-sufficiency is depleted or we are at the end of our tether.
How beautiful are Your ways, O Lord,
Far beyond anything we can imagine.
You raise us when we fall.
You are there when no one else is.
You are our God. We, your children, the work of your Fatherly hands!
So do not hesitate to open your aching heart to Him, who knows us and loves us more than we can ever imagine. Sometimes He sends us His messenger, in the guise of an understanding friend. Grasp the occasion, don’t shy away. You’d be missing out on something very precious.
“How are you?”
“Umm, I’m not okay…”
It’s okay to be ‘not okay’!