Being a barista, I come in contact with a lot of people. In a work day, with a constant stream of face-to-face interaction, my responses and conversations can become very routine and rehearsed.
"It sure is nice out there." "Oh it's beautiful. Hopefully you can get out and see this gorgeous weather we're having after work." "I hope so. Although I could do without the wind--it always messes with my allergies." "I feel ya. Well you have a good day now." "You too!" (And other variations of the same conversation)
A common exchange between customer and barista is "Hi, how are you?" "I'm good thanks, how are you?" "Good, thank you, what can I get for ya?" And even that is extensive compared to the other exchanges which involve: "Hi, how are you?" "Yeah give me a grande latte, no foam, extra shot, extra hot...oh and nonfat" among other even less pleasant exchanges. But the point is, I know what to expect from my customers when I go into work. It's those every-so-often customers I get that throw a wrench in my perfectly-timed interaction with them. "Hi, how are you?" "Oh, I'm ok." At which point I'm frozen in place for half a millisecond while I try to decide how best to answer.
I usually end up saying something lame like "Well let's see if we can fix that today" or, "At least you got your mocha!" (Even though I heavily believe in the powers of caffeine, it cannot in fact, fix all your problems). When I'm faced with the unexpected, I am unsure how to respond. But what I find even more interesting is that I've started to expect this "I'm ok" response, because it always seems to be the same people who use it. Even something which used to give me pause as I bustled around tossing cups this way and scones that way, has now become expected...and usual.
I find it strange when people use the word "ok" to describe how they're doing. Saying that you're doing "ok" should mean (by definition--I googled it) that you are satisfactory or aggreeable; acceptable. But most often when we give this answer in response to how we're doing, we are not actually ok. I can't remember one time I used this response and was actually "ok" (satisfactory or agreeable). Usually when I say "I'm ok," I either want whoever I'm talking to to probe further to find out why I'm not ok, or I want them to leave me alone. (I know, I'm a complicated mess) Either way, "I'm ok" is a mask. It's a lie I tell myself and other people to cover up how I'm really feeling and what I'm really thinking. Even if I ask customers why they're just doing "ok" and not "good," or "great" they don't really give an answer. They just mention how they've got errands to run or have been working everyday this week (at which I time I insert my awesome line about how "at least they have Starbucks"). The reason is, "I'm ok" is a lie.
I recently found myself using this phrase a lot. With friends, family, myself and God. I've always heard about the dangers of complacency and have tried my best not to fall into the trap of never moving forward or thinking that just by being busy I was being effective, but I didn't realize my complacency could turn into sin, and that these lies I had been telling myself were separating me from God.
I had to have a really honest conversation with Him, in which I had to repent not only for my sin, but for thinking that I was without it. I know that everybody sins, I know that we have a sinful nature that has to be fought against but I guess I thought that Christians were sort of exempt from certain sin, or at least, they should be. And for that, I had to not only apologize but make a decision to turn away from my wrong thinking and purpose in my heart to change. I was, essentially "casting stones." Jesus told the Pharisees who caught a woman in adultery in John 8, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." That's me! I'm without sin, right? So give me stones, time to practice.
Now, I'm being very honest and vulnerable with you, lest you think ANYONE has their stuff together, and is immune to sin, or a certain degree of sin like I did. I realize now how ridiculous my thinking was, so don't judge me too harshly.
I started throwing my stones: verbally and mentally. I would sit around and judge people, thinking it was my right because I was "without sin." Oh, how wrong I was. The worst part is, I didn't realize to the extent that I was doing it. I kept saying "I'm ok, I'm ok." And I would pray and have moments with God where I would get glimpses of what sin I was allowing to creep in and I would ask for forgiveness, ask God to change me, to break me. The thing about breaking is, it's not always a one-time deal. I was under the impression that if God was going to break me, He was going to do it all at once and then I would be fixed. Well that's fine, unless you take the cast off too soon, or try to manipulate the healing process. But I have things to do, God, people to see--so give me the microwave version so I can get on with my life. (Ouch, I know, I know--messed up)
As my best friend so perfectly put it,
"You can't have a break-through without it breaking you."
There is no quick-fix version--something I've been painfully realizing, and repenting for lately.
Saying "I'm ok" doesn't just make your problems disappear, as if pretending they aren't there makes them irrelevant. Another lie I had been telling myself was that I shouldn't have problems. That maybe if I kept saying "I'm ok," I actually would be.
John 16:33 says, "In this world you will have trouble; but take heart! I have overcome the world." I've always loved this Scripture for the second part: that He has overcome the world, but I guess I always ignored the first part, about having trouble (who wants that?). But He tells us we WILL have it, and pretending we don't does not make our lives any easier. But we are not without hope! Jesus Christ HAS overcome the world, and in Him we find the best place of refuge.
Our problem-free living is in Heaven, and while on earth, we will face sin and we will face problems, but as long as we (I) don't fall into the trap of "I'm ok," these painful realizations like the one I recently experienced don't have to stop us from living the life He paid so much for. Because lies do stop you from living, but luckily, we know the Giver of Life, and He is always ready to take us in and cause us to live again.
So I hope my honesty has reached you wherever you are in your walk with God, and I encourage you to be honest: with yourself and with God. Before it's too late, ask yourself if you've been lying, if you've been "ok." And when you're ready, when you "get serious about finding [Him] and want it more than anything else, [He'll] make sure you won't be disappointed." (Jeremiah 29:13)