Folks, a simple phrase, “I’m alright,” has shaped much of my life in more ways than I care to admit, or will readily acknowledge. The simple truth is: I’m not alright, else why did Jesus have to die for me?
Yet it was this very phrase that my parents taught me to say when, as a small child I would fall, get scraped, be upset. I know they meant well, but it was cold comfort to a little boy.
Until the little boy grew, and internalized it, made it a life philosophy. I suppose it’s why, now, I’m so accepting of the brokenness I see all around me, and why I have such a hard time fessing up when I’ve done wrong.
Because, you see, “I’m alright.”
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The genesis of this philosophy predates me, of course, and goes all the way back to the garden. But as pertains to my particular ancestry, I would say it has its origins with my mom.
Mom was raised in church, knew the Bible, won awards for Scripture memorization. But she tells me that upon hearing a particular sermon about how wretched we are (while true, it’s my conviction that she came of age in a very legastic church–thus the truth was communicated sans love), she said to herself “I’m not that bad.” Thus began the slippery slope leading to “I’m alright.”
Thing is, though Kenny Loggins sang of it (“I’m alright, don’t nobody worry ’bout me. Why you got to give me a fight? Why can’t you just let me be?’), it’s a poor way to live. We–you, me, everybody–don’t exist in a vacuum, and our choices effect other folks. The fact is: we don’t grow through the easy times–when things are “alright.” We grow through rubbing up against one another, when it’s hard, when we’re forced to work things out.
“I’m alright” not only denies the pains life brings our way, it also shortcuts the conflict by which we confront those pains, one another, and the process of working things out. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens the countenance of another” is what the Scriptures say.
“I’m alright” denies the need for any such sharpening. It basically says “I’m okay–you should be, too.” Then seeks to go on about its merry way, not caring for the devastation it leaves in its wake.
For myself, God has been faithful to not leave me so blithely ignorant to the hurts I’ve caused. It’s not been easy, and I often kick against the goads–struggling to admit my wrongs–but it has been worth it.
So I say here–now, today–I’m not alright.
And that’s okay.
How about you? Are you alright?