“Then I acknowledged my sin to You and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and You forgave the guilt of my sin.” Psalm 32:5
I’m OK, You’re OK is the title of a self-help book written by Thomas Harris and published in 1967. Harris proposed 4 life positions revolving around the idea of whether we consider ourselves and others ok. I never read the book, but I want to propose a Lenten version. Because Lent begins with the proposition that we’re not ok, let’s begin each statement with that confession: I’m not ok.
I’m not ok, but it’s not the end of the world.
Admitting I have a problem is really the start of hearing the gospel. I can’t really hear the good news until I admit the bad news. The fact is, I’m really not ok. Sin has twisted and distorted me. I’m not what God wants me to be. The cross was necessary, in part, because of Terry Ellis’ sins.
God wants me to confess my sins, not to make me feel bad about myself, but because at a very deep level I already feel bad about myself. I know something is wrong, and no amount of “I don’t need to feel guilty” is going to solve the problem. I do need to feel guilty when I’m guilty. God won’t solve anything in me until I let Him in, and that happens with three simple words” I’m not ok.” Having made this simple confession of my brokenness I discover that I have not dissolved into a puddle of guilt and self-pity, and neither will you.
Next I turn to…
I’m not ok, and frankly neither are you, but that’s none of my business.
My first temptation when I confess my sinfulness is to shift the focus anywhere else. I don’t like to think about my brokenness, and I’m still not really convinced that I’m all that badly broken. In fact, you’re broken worse than I am! If I can focus on your sinfulness (which is always more obvious to me than mine) then I don’t have to worry about my sinfulness.
You are a mess too, but that’s none of my business. I can’t make you repent, and I can’t change you, so I just need to leave you out of the equation. Lent is very selfish. I have to focus on me, not you. The Bible consistently forbids me from judging for this very reason. I need to stick with the fact that I have a problem and your problem is none of my concern.
Which leads me to…
I’m not ok, and your opinion of me is none of my business.
One reason I’m so reluctant to admit I have a problem is that I’m afraid you will think less of me. My tendency, therefore, is to cover-up and lift up. I cover up my faults and lift up my reputation. Instead of deflecting, which is what I do when I try to focus on your problem, I am projecting a better person than I am. It’s a façade and a lie.
But, if I divorce myself from your opinion of me then I’m free. Some people will not like me, and truthfully, I have done some unlikeable things. Those people have a right not to like me, and I have a right not to be tied to their opinion of me. I simply cannot be consumed by what other people think, whether they are right or wrong. My task is to become a better person, and only God can do that. I listen for His voice above all critics, set things right when I’m able, and move on. His opinion of me alone matters.
Which is very good news because…
I’m not ok, but that’s ok.
Accepting the fact that I’m broken allows me to focus on God’s grace. He has taken care of all the bad in me. My number one task is to confess and live in the grace God offers. You see, God knows I’m not ok, but He’s not willing to leave me there. As long as I’m open to His leading and His correction then my residual brokenness is in His hands.
Grace has a rhythm. God brings me to completion in His way and in His timing. As long as I regularly confess and ask for forgiveness, and mean it, then I’m free to walk with God. Where I am in life right now, my spiritual state at this moment, is acceptable to God. He’s not surprised by where I am, and He’s not disappointed. I’m already His, and He is not finished with me. He has already forgiven the guilt of my sin and is in the process of making me new. I’m a work in progress. So I’m not yet all ok, but that’s ok.
So give this Lenten exercise a try. Be honest, and you’ll discover a deeper grace when you admit you’re not ok.
Dr. Terry Ellis
March 9, 2014