“I just want to tell you it’s okay.” I slowly started nodding in agreement. Mind racing, looking for the right response, but I couldn’t find one. Why is she saying this? Is she trying to help me feel better? Why does she care? She doesn’t even know my last name.
The person speaking those words gently grabbed my arm and repeated them once again. “No, I want you to really hear me.
We had just walked out of a morning session with a small group discussing our work and the challenges we faced. Six of us in different places and stages; all pursuing similar dreams.
She heard me explain why I struggled and what areas I need to work on- the pride, the selfishness, the comparison, all of the ugly parts of myself I need to get under control. “You’re human”, she reminded me.
We stood in silence on the sidewalk. I uttered some excuse about not feeling good. I felt dizzy, my mind couldn’t focus. We both knew I struggled to accept the truth of her words.
That was six months ago.
And some days I still struggle to accept them.
“It’s okay to not be okay” is a mantra I’ve chanted from time to time. I’ve spoken it to friends, my kids, and those who come to me for advice. But while my brain believes it, my heart struggles to accept it in the moments I need to most.
I can say “it’s okay” after processing a situation for weeks on end, after realizing there’s nothing left to do. I can say “it’s okay” when I feel in control. But telling myself “it’s okay” in the middle of not being okay is a whole different story.
When I walk away from a conversation wondering if I said the wrong thing, it’s not easy to tell myself, “it’s okay”. Saying “it’s okay” when I question my own motives feels impossible. Believing “it’s okay” while wrestling with the decision I should have made feels everything but okay. But alas, isn’t that when it matters?
We live in a time when there’s a “fix-it” answer for seemingly everything. “5 Ways to Lose Weight For Good”, “4 Strategies for Dating Online, “3 Rules for Parenting in a Digital Age”. Whatever problem you have, whatever area you want to improve, there’s a solution and a strategy to go along.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good strategy. Personality tests label me a “strategist”.
But, strategy won’t solve the core problems of the human soul. Strategy may help me finish a goal. Strategy may help me lead better. Strategy may help me train my kid to put their dirty plate in the dishwasher. But no strategy will take away my selfishness for good. There’s no strategy to fix the pride in my heart once and for all. Strategy alone won’t keep my struggles with insecurity from creeping in.
As long as I’m alive and breathing on this earth, those struggles will remain to some degree. I will never be immune to sin and brokenness. The curse of sin cannot be lifted until death comes in all its force and I’m finally free of this mortal life.
But it’s okay.
It’s okay because Jesus makes me okay. It’s okay because Jesus conquered sin and death. He took on my selfishness, my pride, my sin upon himself to make me okay. I may never be perfect, but I can draw close to someone who is.
And when I’m not feeling okay and stuck with feelings of inadequacy, that’s what I’m trying to tell myself. In the moments of not feeling okay, when all I really want to do is take off running the other way, remembering the One who makes me okay is what keeps me standing firm.
My proximity to Jesus helps me feel okay when I know good and well I’m not. Is selfishness okay? No. Is my pride okay? Absolutely not.
When I move closer to Jesus, He offers forgiveness. He restores. When I shift my focus on what He’s done for me rather than on how screwed up I am, He reminds me of who I am. I am His daughter and I am loved.
No matter how many strategies and self-improvement books I read, no strategy will replace the need for proximity to Jesus. And it’s only in close proximity to Him that I have found I can be okay- and really mean it to my core.
God designed us that way on purpose. To need Him. To only feel okay when we’re closest to Him. And that’s what I’ve been working on lately.
I’ve been in a season that’s required me to be vulnerable in new ways and to take risks that result in disappointment. But this is when it counts most. That’s when the crux of my faith is revealed. Not when I feel good about myself because I performed well, but when I can feel okay even when I don’t.
Some days those two words are the most powerful words you can speak over yourself.