“Are you okay?”
Now, I know you mean well.
But this question only frustrates me
Because society demands a clear answer.
Black or white; but I’m drowning in the gray area
There’s just two answers.
But that’s not all.
Let me explain my predicament further.
I could say: “I’m not okay.”
Then watch their eyes shift and their feet shuffle.
They touch your shoulder and say “I’m sorry.”
Yeah me too.
Sorry that death is so sudden, and marriages fail.
Sorry that people lie and relationships derail
I could say: “I am okay.” But I’m afraid to.
I might be okay now but I don’t know
About tomorrow, or next week.
Will you be there when the shock ends and the pain sets in?
Friends see you crying, stop and request an explanation.
You shout in exclamation “Don’t you remember? It’s only been a week!”
A week since the funeral. A month since the call.
A year since a close friend ended it all.
See we’re all stuck looking to answer this question that demands a clear answer.
Deep down looking for that person to understand and express
that healing is a process.
With bad days, and good days in no particular order.
Like climbing up two steps and right back down three on a ladder
Instead of judgment, questions or clichés
That person simply says
“I know pain so well, friend. Wherever you are right now. That’s what matters.
No expectations for tomorrow or demands from the past.
Like an arm in a cast, be patient in healing.
All the while I’ll simply ask:
How are you feeling?”
Late Tuesday evening, an explosion is heard in your neighborhood. You run outside to see what happened. Other neighbors are exiting their houses in various states of shock and confusion. You join the crowd walking/running towards the noise. Just around the corner, you see the house, or rather what’s left of it. Your heart breaks. It is your close friend’s house and so far your friend is nowhere to be found. You decide to search the remains to find your friend. Indeed, you find him, underneath a fallen bed post. He’s covered in ash and dirt. You lift the post and see his shattered leg and have to swallow the urge to scream. He is conscious. You start shouting to your neighbors. “Help! Come help! He’s alive! But he’s hurting!” They come over. A woman looks at him as he writhes silently in pain. She reaches in her purse, you think she is pulling out her phone to dial 911. But instead she starts pulling out band-aids. She passes them out among the neighbors and they all work together to put bandaids on him. Your face fills with disgust and confusion. “What are you guys doing? His bones are shattered. Those are not going to help him.”
They start to speak:
“Are you okay?” One asks your friend.
Your friend has no strength to speak. After no response, the neighbor shrugs and walks away.
“The ambulance is coming soon. Just be strong.” A man says and walks away.
“let me know if you need anything.” His wife adds.
“I’ll pray for you and let my small group know this happened.” A young student said.
It’s not everyday that a house down the street spontaneously explodes. However, reality as we know it sometimes does. You know how it is, life is going so well and then a phone call, or an email from a relative or friend begins with “I have bad news…” And boom, your life explodes. Your ears are ringing from the shock and and it takes awhile for the ashes to settle, until you really can become aware of what you’re dealing with. Friends and family hear the news and flood to the rescue. And people, especially Christians, say things, meaning well, but they in the reality of the situation don’t really help. I’ll refer to them now as “verbal band-aids.”
1) “Are you okay?”
-I don’t like this question because it makes me choose “yes” or “no”. If I say yes, will you write me off and go about your life? If I say no, will you freak out and try and fix the situation. Instead, Ask me how I am feeling. And not just the first time we talk about what happened, but frequently. “how are you feeling?” Opens up the door for me to talk about whatever I want.
2)Let me know if you need anything
I just need you to be my friend. Listen to me. Shoot me a text. Call me. Reach out to me because you are strong right now and I am weak and hurting.
3) I’m here if you need to talk: anytime, any day. Really!.”
It’s so easy to feel alone especially when rough things are going on. Countless people have told me this and how many have I called? Only a few. Instead, try engaging me in conversation. Inviting me to go get coffee or see a movie. I’ll welcome the break and really enjoy being around someone.
4) “God has a plan.”
Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28. etc. etc. I know God has a plan, but His plan is hurting me right now. Telling me it will all work in the end, doesn’t help me here in the now. 1 year down the road, this might make sense, but right now I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to work a job, write my undergraduate thesis admist all that is already going on . It doesn’t hurt to be reminded, but we know: turn to Jesus, cast your cares on Him, Run to Jesus. We’ve heard those things and we’re doing them the best way we know how.
Instead: Be real with us. Acknowledge the suckiness of the situation, weep with those who weep. Be present with me in this pain, because that’s where I’m at right now.
5) I’m praying for you.
Last semester I was sitting outside the apartments and writing in my journal, a friend came up to me and just casually asked how I was doing. I broke down crying and she started to hug me. It was one of those hugs where you get that person’s shoulder wet with your tears. The craziest thing happened, she just started praying, out loud. She didn’t know what was going on or why i was crying. She just prayed for me. That meant so much. So much more than comments on Facebook or texts from someone saying they are praying for me. Not that I doubt them or the power of prayer, but the Enemy lies so much and can convince us that we’re abandoned. But Satan’s lies lose weight when you’re hugging a friend and you can hear her praying and see her tears.
When tragedy strikes nearby, it might be tempting to grab the band-aids and cover up the wounds of your friends. Covered up or not, it still hurts. Let’s leave the fixing up to God, put the band-aids away and listen to our friends. Go get coffee, go to a park, wherever and whatever, be present and available. An open ear, open heart, a hug or a prayer might be exactly what they need.
9 Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NLT)
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Last Christmas Break I eliminated a phrase from my vocabulary: “I can’t.” I had gotten to a point where I was making myself needlessly upset for having overly negative thoughts. I consider myself to be a pretty positive person, but my inner voice can be extremely negative, add stress and tough circumstances and my inner negative Nancy has a field day. So, my deal was just between me and Nancy. No more thinking or saying “I can’t.” It wasn’t until I started focusing on what I was saying to myself, or to others that I realized how negative I was being. And how much my intervention was truly needed. For example, I’d be writing a paper and the whole time be my thought process would look like this: “I can’t do this. I’m not going to be able to finish it in time. Even if I do finish, It’s going to suck.” One paper was enough to spiral me into deep pit of self-pity. My agreement was to stop saying “I can’t.” I wasn’t going to be super cheesy and replace with anything like “I can do it!” I just needed to stop spiraling every time life got hard. Without the negative thoughts, I actually focused on writing the paper, or studying for the test, or presenting in class and things were just fine! I really benefited from doing this and I challenge you to do the same. You’ll be amazed at how much emotional energy you save when you aren’t predicting your own imminent demise every time something big (or small) comes up.
Now, this morning I realized a whole other phrase I need to eliminate because it literally means nothing.
College students like me use this phrase so much.
“I should really study for that test.”
“I should start eating healthier.”
“I should really get going and work on my homework.”
“I should go to bed, it’s late.”
“I should stop spending money on fast food.”
9 times out of 10 when I say those things it’s me just vocalizing the slight remorse inside for not being productive or doing the right thing. Dictionary.com says the word should is used to define condition. It’s a verb, but it sucks as a verb because there is no action involved. There’s potential for action but action is not guaranteed. Also, when I use “I should” it is almost always followed by a “but” phrase. “I should study for that test, but I don’t feel like it right now.”
‘I should” is dangerous, too, because there’s no expiration date on should. “I should read my bible.” i could say that now, tomorrow and or 5 years from now and it means the same thing. There’s no time crunch or guarantee in I should. You could tell me: “I should be home around 9pm” If you’re home at 9pm that’s great, but if you’re home at 9:30pm,I can’t get mad because you said “i should” which is a loose term these days, especially compared to saying , “I will be home at 9pm.” Or “I am going to read my bible. “I am going to study for that test.” These sentences all have action verbs! Action! You actually doing something that you said you were going to do.
Point being, it’s time to eliminate another phrase from my daily vocabulary: “I should…”
I am going to eliminate phrases that start with I should and replace it with “I am”
I am going to keep up with this blog this summer.
See? Better, already.