I’ve been mostly absent from social media for the past few months. I come and go but mostly I’ve been offline trying to live into my present.

Living in the now is no small task.

We are a people of anticipation or we are a people of despair. As people who believe in Christ, hope is our native tongue but we often struggle to translate that language to the world. It’s not enough to just hope we get beamed out of here when the world goes up in flames. We’re a people of a coming Kingdom, we must live with an “on earth as it is in heaven” kind of vision. And it’s this vision that is so hard in the day to day.

The world is a mess, the world is beautiful. There is glory everywhere, everything is broken. It is a both/and sort of situation and that tension is painful and messy.

It’s easy to want to divide what seems secular and what seems sacred and pick a side. It’s natural to want to measure our worthiness in how much we do. It’s also normal to want to escape from it all.

I go on Twitter and I feel all the sharp edges of the world pushing in. There is so much injustice, so much to care about, so much going on in the world that can’t be ignored. It would be easy to weave an entire identity out of worthy causes and hashtags, to hear the ranty edges of my voice importantly banged onto the keyboard in 140 character tweets. I could spend the day tweeting on issues and raising awareness and adding my voice but I know I’m called to the work of now and I can’t do both faithfully. So I often log off, I close the lid of my laptop, I swipe up to end the apps on my phone and I do the world changing things I can, small unseen things that I hope still matter. Sometimes when I look at everyone advertising all they have done, what I do doesn’t feel like enough.

Maybe that tension is ok too? The balance before conviction derails into guilt, to rest fully and yet know we are continually called to good works, to justice, to peacemaking. This is what it means to abide.

It’s also easy to want to escape. To absently wander the aisles of Target and mindlessly put things into the cart. To numb myself with food, or Netflix, or throw pillows. Yes, that’s a thing. Throw pillows are basically a love language to me.

Sometimes when I try to escape, everything feels so frivolous. I keep seeing Instagrams of everyone’s homes all decorated and sparkly and part of me thinks it’s beautiful and part of me groans and feels like we’ve missed the point. I see artfully arranged plates with fresh apple tarts and pumpkin spice lattes swirled with creamy petals on top and it can all feel so silly and meaningless.

Sometimes I take myself more seriously than I should.

I think, what use do I have for a flower garden when there are people starving in the world? But then the blossoms bloom and I have fresh cut flowers on my table on this mornings when the world feels blunted and cold and they’re so simple and beautiful and glorious, how can I not notice them? Be thankful for them?

But then later, I find myself thinking how selfish it is of me to care about lipstick colors when people are being lynched. And then someone asks me what color I’m wearing, and it sparks a conversation and I realize being bold enough to believe myself beautiful and worthy of being seen is no small miracle.

And then I think how can I spend time decorating my living room with vintage garage sale finds when people have lost their homes? But then I find myself driving down the road on a Saturday morning in our old truck with my husbands hand resting on mine following the neon poster board signs with his and her coffees, mine milky and sweet, his bitter and black perched in the cupholders and I think this is what home is to me. This man bringing me coffee on a Saturday morning and circling all the best sales and a million miles of backroads, rummaging through rusty old tools and people’s nicknacks set out on blankets and folding tables.

This feeling of coming home with that one thing that feels like it was always meant to be yours and for such a great price because they just wanted it gone. This is grace too. Those small moments of simple wonder and peace. And I have to push down my cynical side that says this doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. It is not important enough to warrant my praise. That I can’t care about the things that matter and also these things do, in fact, matter.

It’s easy to want to spiritualize everything and try to live above the fray of it all. I’ve found myself struggling with wanting to pull away from things because it all seems so fluffy and unimportant. 

But God doesn’t do it that way. He never has.  Every petal that blooms spells out the majesty of God. Every flavor that melts on the tongue, every eye catching moment of splendor that is the perfect red lipstick is no accident. Every beautiful thing our vision catches and the fact that we notice them at all has everything to do with who He is as a creator.

I am reminded of this as I read through the gospel of Luke. 

He came in both flesh and holiness in the most extraordinary of ways. The wisemen brought extravagant and beautiful gifts and offered them as worship.  The shepherds came stunned at His glory. And God used both to usher in the Good news of Jesus’s birth and foretell his majesty. 

Jesus always taught that He- himself- was present not only with the poor but also present in the poor. This is our language of hope for the world. 

In Matthew 25 Jesus taught us that when we fail to see Him in the poverty and oppression of others, when we ignore their plight, we fail to grasp our Master. We fail to understand the heart of our savior.  He made no qualifications of those who deserved grace and mercy. He didn’t mention their choices, their gender, their religion, their immigration status, their political affiliations, or the color of their skin. 

That restlessness I feel? It’s living in the tension of abundance knowing that God is among us. He says to us, “I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me … Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” (Matthew 25: 42ff)

I have known poverty and I have known abundance. Just to live here in this present time in this present place affords me huge privilege.

It made me realize that to meet Jesus in that place of poverty, I would have to have food, I would have to have drink , a home to open, clothes to spread across another’s shoulders, freedom to visit the prison.  I am blessed with these things in abundance for the very purpose of meeting Jesus. He has equipped me with everything I need. He’s not calling me to ignore His blessings, He’s asking me to share them, to rest, to enjoy, to speak out, to serve, and to lament.

He’s calling me to peace in the tension, not an escape nor another thing to do but a place to abide in Him and be met with hope.

*image by @alisaanton on Unsplash
Alia Joy Hagenbach / Posts / Blog
Alia Joy is a storyteller, speaker, and homeschooling mother of three making her home in Central Oregon. She shares her story in broken bits and pieces on her blog and finds community where other’s stories intersect. She's a cynical idealist who is always trying to find the beautiful bits in the midst of the messy and broken. She believes even the most broken stories have a redeemer and she'll always dance to the good songs. She is a regular contributor at (in)courage, SheLoves, The Mudroom, and Deeper Waters and can be found on twitter hashtagging all the things, drinking copious amounts of coffee, and making goo-goo eyes at her husband.
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    Jennifer Frisbie

    Alia, this was beautiful. And so timely for me to read today. I couldn’t get past three lines without tears due to some private wrestling I’m going through and I am grateful you share what I cannot. “Living in the now is no small task…” Truer words were never spoken.

    September 25th, 2017 10:45
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      Alia Joy

      Right? It’s so hard to be present as witnesses to our worlds. Thanks for getting it.

      September 30th, 2017 15:44
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    Diane Bailey

    Precious Alia Joy,

    Your words never cease to capture my heart and blow away the stress of the day with your deep insights.

    Thank you for sharing your heart and words here today. You are a blessing to me.

    “Every petal that blooms spells out the majesty of God. Every flavor that melts on the tongue, every eye catching moment of splendor that is the perfect red lipstick is no accident.”

    Oh Girl! So beautiful!!! So meaningful to me today. Thank you.

    September 25th, 2017 11:02
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      Alia Joy

      Thank you for being here with me, Diane! I’m glad it was meaningful to you.

      September 30th, 2017 15:44
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    Carolina Hinojosa-Cisneros

    Alia, I can totally relate to this post. Thank you for expressing what I feel into words. You’re not alone, friend. God bless.

    September 25th, 2017 13:13
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      Alia Joy

      Yes, this not alone part is what makes writing community such a blessing. Thanks, friend.

      September 30th, 2017 15:46
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    It was a great gift to read your words today. You framed so beautifully, much of my own struggle these last several months. I can’t tell you what a gift it was to not feel so alone in my wrestling. Love you, my friend. Thank you….

    September 25th, 2017 16:24
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      Alia Joy

      Love you and am thankful for you!

      September 30th, 2017 15:47
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    Alia, I cannot tell you in words how much I appreciate YOUR words today. they gave shape to much of what I have been feeling. I get notifications for people I most want to see (facebooks), like the Oregon pieces of my heart, and other dear friends. And so there is no need to scroll through for awhile. My heart can’t take it. Thank you for your words here today.

    September 25th, 2017 16:31
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      Alia Joy

      Yes, my heart can’t much take it either. It’s good to have some of those boundaries at times.

      September 30th, 2017 15:48
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    Kathy Schwanke

    The most beautiful piece I’ve read in a long time. This quandary of living in American luxury whilst others are displaced. And yet, here I am . . . Lord, thank you and help me . . . to live is Christ.

    September 25th, 2017 22:14
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    Thank you for this, it has so eloquently voiced what I struggle with daily.
    “Every petal that blooms spells out the majesty of God.”

    September 26th, 2017 6:30
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      Alia Joy

      Thanks Abi. Paying attention might be the highest form of worship and praise.

      September 30th, 2017 15:50
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    Such a beautiful message that I wrestle with at times. It’s amazing how a person can experience such complex and conflicting emotions at the same time when truly acknowledging the blessing bestowed upon us. All I know is that God has a plan and a path for me that I’m not privy to, yet. But I will allow him to lead me where ever that is. Until then, I will do my best to be grateful and enjoy all that I have. Thank you for this reminder. God Bless!

    September 26th, 2017 7:39
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      Alia Joy

      Thank you. I agree, that tension is such a mark of our Christian walk, to be faithful and moved but also to be at peace and thankful right where we are.

      September 30th, 2017 15:53
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    Linda Stoll

    Ah yes, you are always worth the wait, Alia …

    For the creative wisdom shared, thanks. I’ll be sharing with my people.

    September 26th, 2017 16:27
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      Alia Joy

      Thanks for waiting for me. 😉 And for sharing. You’re a blessing.

      September 30th, 2017 15:55
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    I have had these thoughts for some time now. Thank you for writing your own down and giving me perspective.

    September 28th, 2017 7:37
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      Alia Joy

      Glad we’re on the same page, Celeste. I think a lot of people are feeling this tension, especially with everything going on in the world and the dynamic of social media in our lives.

      September 30th, 2017 15:56
  • Jody Collins
    Jody Collins

    Alia, this post has been in my Inbox all week. Your words echo a quote I read the other day,
    “…the resolving of the conflict between sacred and the secular (or, better said, the repairing of the damage done by divorcing them) has been billed as the major problem of modern theology.” -Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb, 1967

    As denizens of an unseen kingdom, not in the by-and-by but in the here and now, you captured this tension beautifully. “He’s calling me to peace in the tension, not an escape nor another thing to do but a place to abide in Him and be met with hope.”
    May God give us strength to live in that with-ness; well said, friend.

    September 28th, 2017 15:16
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      Alia Joy

      Thanks for making space for this in your inbox and for taking the time to read it and respond. Always appreciated. I love that passage you shared and it captures it beautifully.

      September 30th, 2017 16:04
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    Heather Buckwalter

    Alia, I am a fan of your writing! Today I read your words and just bawled. You put into words the wrestling I have felt in my spirit the last couple weeks. Thank you.Your words were a gift.

    October 11th, 2017 10:15
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    Diana M

    I’m not sure you still even check your blogs or posts. It looks like these were in 2017. But I just want you to know I just finished your book Glorious Weakness and logged onto your page scrolling thru. Your post on leaving social media on and off touched me. I have been off now for awhile, living in the here and now. I have been thru a lot lately, and just do not get much joy from social media as I used to. It used to be a great place or thing we used to keep in touch, but I feel as of late it has drawn us away from each other, in the now. It seems we have reduced ourselves to ‘likes’ and comments, I just don’t understand this social media world. I would much rather feel, touch hug you in the REAL world than scroll thru a bunch of nonsense these days to see what you have been up to. I guess I’m not fitting in this ‘new world’, actually never did feel I fit in. Never a Leader, never a Follower always JUST ME, just Simple, Genuine, Passionate and very, very Sincere. Thank you for sharing your story. May God continue to wrap his loving arms around you Allia, giving you the Strength, Courage and mostly I pray for peoples Peace. As many think I am strong for what I have endured as of late, I must say I embrace my weakness thru it all, and that seems to scare people away. I have been journaling it all in hopes to share some day, but not sure it is mine to tell. Perhaps my children will share it after I am gone. God bless you
    Allia. ??

    June 22nd, 2019 17:20

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