I saw this sign today and it was a nod from God. “Everything will be okay.” Maybe this message wasn’t just me, perhaps it’s for all of us? This thought has been on my mind over and over as I have reflected on the world. I had an experience many years ago and learned…IT WILL BE OKAY.
I can’t remember what led me to cry in the bathroom stall at the student center at BYU but I do remember how I felt. I was a Freshman and was feeling the pressures of everything. I was done and completely spent. Exhaustion and frustration had left me feeling completely alone and I was letting my tears fall without control. This wasn’t a quiet delicate cry. No, this cry included sniffles and would be obvious to anyone who stepped into the bathroom. I heard the door open and someone using the facilities. They took forever handling business but I didn’t let that stop me from having my moment. Roommates made privacy scarce and I am not a quitter! I was fully committed to crying this one out.
I remember hearing her wash her hands thinking she was probably a medical student, given her thoroughness. The water stopped and still, she didn’t leave me to my mess. What is she doing? Primping? She’s probably headed to meet someone for a date. And then, a note slipped under the stall, placed by a girl wearing a unique pair of red Converse style shoes. Written on college-ruled lined paper, was a message that I have needed again and again.“IT WILL BE OKAY.”
She quickly slipped out of the bathroom and I cried even more tears because I knew the owner of those red shoes. The distinct styling could only belong to one person. She lived across the hall from me in the dorms. We were not friends, but I was ready to be BFFs because I felt so encouraged to know that I was surrounded by a woman like that. A woman who would notice a problem and take the time to do something about it. This tiny kindness has never been forgotten because being seen was exactly what I needed as I tried to hide out in that bathroom stall. Her sincere note was a sign that Heaven did see me and that I mattered. I felt comfort fold in over me and I believed that it would be okay. Hope. Belonging. Encouragement…all from 4 little words. IT WILL BE OKAY.
I don’t know what you are going through but I can almost see it in my mind’s eye and feel it with my heart if I but pause to listen. As I sit here with snow blowing outside in my backyard, I can see the stormy attacks swirling around all of us and yet, a clear message that it will be okay. I know there are things going on that you don’t talk about because you are so tired of your own story not quite changing. I know that there are pains in your heart that create isolation, fear, doubt, stress, and loneliness. I know that you feel inadequate and comparison creates havoc every time you see yourself in the mirror or in photos. I know that sometimes it feels like if people knew what you were really like, they would reject you and yours. I know that you hide out in the pantry to eat chocolate because it is the only thing that feels good at this moment, and then you harshly judge yourself ten minutes later. I know you have to choose grace again and again and wonder when you will figure it all out because it seems like everyone else has it all together! I know that you fiercely love your children and your parents but both drive you bonkers. I know you have to keep going and have no idea how the strength even comes in to do the things before you. I know that your kids throw tantrums and embarrass you. I know you can’t find one thing to bring you joy. I know that addictions, pornography, and infidelity have destroyed your trust but you keep trying to understand and love others. I know that you feel unseen and unheard by God and invisible to those around you. I know that shame creeps in and hangs over you like a relenting rain cloud. I know the miscarriage and the breakup still hurt. I know you knew it wasn’t going to be easy but wonder if it was always going to be this hard.
I know that even though you could name off a few dozen blessings and things to be grateful about, you still crave more and sometimes even feel guilty about that. I know spiritual things are complicated and answers are delayed. I know that you straddle both hope and despair. I know that the challenges are so very real and that we are all alike in this. The struggle bus is one that we all experience. I know that if you could simply stop for five minutes, you too would cry your eyes out in a random bathroom stall, but I also know that it is scary to even think about letting that floodgate open, because then what? And I also know: IT WILL BE OKAY. Whatever your current struggle or frustration or question might be, IT WILL BE OKAY. The job, the relationship, the health challenge, your toddler or your teenager… IT WILL BE OKAY.
Sometimes I walk through the grocery store, down the hall at church, or through business meetings and I can tangibly feel the pain and stress from my fellow sisters. Revelation floods my mind and I send each woman I pass a personalized package of love and light. “I see you.” I think to myself. I picture myself gathering all the goodness on the earth and send her a rainbow of light directly to her heart. I imagine an army of angels poised to nurture and protect, eager to assist in every way imaginable and some unimaginable ways too! I mentally say every single thing that comes to mind and I speak to her heart. The moments are brief but I can tangibly feel the shift in energy. I watch the woman push her cart, loaded with both groceries and snotty, (but gorgeous), babies and think, “I see you. You are doing so much better than you think you are!!! You are taking care of all those kids and I know you are beyond freaking tired and yet, you are so very gentle with them. You are exactly the mother your kids need and I am so proud of you for loading them in the car and coming to the store. I see you trying and your work matters. Do not give up. Release those negative thoughts of discouragement because you are going to succeed. Can you feel those angels all around you? They are specialists! They know how to open doors and calm hearts and they can even help with nap time.” I picture a loving angel wrapping her arms around each child and this mama, who is also a Child. And then I say something quick like, “Your family is so beautiful. You’re doing a fantastic job! Keep up the good work.”
She doesn’t know everything that has passed through our hearts, but I do. And sometimes I take a brave step and I look the stranger in the eyes and I say, “It will be okay.” Her eyes flood over, and her heart opens wide and there is a moment where she knows too. She knows she matters. She knows God has not forgotten her after all. She knows that the snotty noses will eventually end and that she will be able to make dinner one more time. And she knows that she is part of a sisterhood and that she is seen. Isn’t this what we all want? To be seen, to know we matter, and to know it will all be okay! More than twenty years later and a lifetime of growth and I still want notes passed to me daily that remind me of what I sort of sometimes know.
We aren’t breakable. We can handle the things before us but we need the encouraging voices around us to whisper, “It will be okay.” And we need that voice to come from each other. We need to not be perfect before we connect. We need to be loved when we feel most unloveable. We need someone to be courageous and invade our closed doors because connection matters more than privacy. I think of that girl at BYU. It was a simple act but also a bit bold. I was in a bathroom stall and still, she entered my space In the only way she could. She didn’t let my walls stop her from loving me. She found a way. Perhaps she paused to pray as she diligently (slowly) washed her hands. Perhaps she had even prayed in the morning, “Use me, God, use me.” Perhaps she was late to her cadaver lab but knew she had to stop and minister to a stranger. Perhaps she was waiting for me to exit the safety of my stall so she could give me a real hug and look me in the eye and say, “It will be okay.” Can we do this for each other? Can we be a bit bolder and show up to love those around us? Can we stop what we are doing and the hurrying long enough to lift another? Can we reach through the barriers and minister? I think we can. In this moment, my heart is reaching for you. You matter and it will be okay.