"How are you?"
And then both people move on to other things - maybe the weather or a sports game, or maybe to different people to have the same short conversation with.
That's become a standard way for "how are you?" conversation to happen. And that's the case everywhere . . . on the street, in a coffee shop, in the grocery store . . . even in our churches.
But how often are we answering the "how are you?" question with "fine" when we're anything but fine?
How often would our real answer be that we're struggling with something? Or upset about something? Or grieving a loss? But we don't feel we can say that when someone asks how we are.
When did we decide it was not okay to be not okay?
When did we decide we had to live behind a façade?
And, most importantly, when did this thinking invade our churches?
When I think about it, the church should be the one place where it's okay to be not okay. The one place where we can be honest with each other about what is really going on below the surface.
The truth is, we're all broken people. We all have hurts. We all have struggles. But we feel this strange need to hide that from everyone else. We act like we have it all together when we're really falling apart.
And, for what? So people will look at us a certain way.
Behind those facades we put up of having it all together are some lonely people who really aren't as okay as they try to make people think they are.
This way of thinking has to change. In Luke 5:31-32 Jesus says, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
Jesus didn't come for those who had it all together. He came for those who are broken and hurting. And His church should be a safe place for them to come and be exactly as they are.
The church should be a place where it's okay to be not okay. Because it's only when we fix our eyes on Jesus that anything makes sense and we can be healed. And while we're walking through it, we need a safe place to be not okay. That place should be the church.
How you doing at being honest about being not okay?
It has to start somewhere if we're going to get rid of the facades we're living behind that make us lonely. Maybe in your circle it needs to start with you deciding it's okay to be not okay and sharing that with those around you. Yes, it's a risk, but it's a necessary one if things are going to change and it's going to become okay to be not okay.
It doesn't mean you have to tell your whole story to everyone you talk to - sometimes you will, sometimes you won't. It starts with answering the question "how are you?" with something other than fine - with something that's true to how you really are. And then see where the conversation goes from there.
It's okay to be not okay. That should be true in our churches and our lives.