Maybe we are convinced other people can’t handle that we aren’t fine, because so often, that seems to be the truth.
I was speaking at a church recently and I have a real bladder problem. So I find myself in bathrooms, a lot. And especially before I have to speak. Maybe it’s anxiety. Maybe it’s a fear of peeing my pants for all to see. All I know is that my bladder hurts and duty calls! So I walked into this church’s bathroom and there stood two women slightly older than me and a teenage girl. They stared at me as if it was weird to be in the bathroom, so I asked if they were in line. They said no, so I squeezed past and made my home in a stall.
I heard this conversation play out. One of the women said “Do yoooou know what weeeeee calllllled you in here to tell yooooou?”
The other woman said in a condemning voice “How farrrrrr along?”
The teenager answered sheepishly “I, I… I’m two months along.”
I was done peeing at this point and was awkwardly trying to hide so I did’t interrupt this conversation that I think they forgot I was present for. The mom with utter disdain and disgust for her own daughter said to her friend “Your face tellllls me how yoooou feel and that’s how Iiiii feel about it too.” Then they walked out and sat down waiting to hear the preacher preach. I pulled up my dreadful stockings, flushed, washed my hands, prayed and then went out and preached a message about a God who did the impossible through Mary, a pregnant teenager.
This maybe 15 year old girl in the bathroom stall, her entire life, is now upside down. I am sure these weren’t her plans. I am sure she was scared, maybe ashamed, maybe full of regret and definitely in her own head, carrying a two month burden. Notice in this conversation no one asked “How are you doing?” Notice there were no questions about how the girl felt. Notice no one was expressing their willingness to walk alongside her on the journey ahead. She opened up and told her story and guess what happened? She got slapped aside the head with the look of a silent “You should be ashamed of yourself. ”
Look, I am a mom and I hope I never end up in a bathroom stall having this conversation with my daughter. And if I do, my first response will not be “Let’s throw a party and get a cake and balloons and go shopping at baby Gap!” But God help me if I corner her in a bathroom with one of my Christian friends and shame her.
I don’t think we have to abandon truth and advice but I do think if we want our 15 year old pregnant teens to invite us in to where they really are so we can walk alongside them to their best life, we better rethink who we want to be when our teenagers AND our husbands AND our friends AND our neighbors are brave enough to say, “I’m not fine.” Because I am pretty sure the next time that 15 year old girl finds herself in a bathroom with someone asking “How are you?” she is sure to say “Fine. I am fine.” Maybe what happened in this bathroom is exactly why we all keep pretending we are fine! Because we keep telling each other we can’t handle it when we aren’t.
Well, God can. God can handle any circumstance that finds us ashamed in a bathroom. God can handle any burden on our back. God says cast your “I’m not fines” upon me. God meets us right where we are at. And God calls us to be just like Him when others are not fine. Instead of running from burdens, gossiping about them, avoiding them or wiping shame all over them, we are called to be like Jesus and carry them. Think about that next time you walk into the bathroom or a conversation where you are invited into another’s “I’m not fine.”