I answer the door in sweatpants and a raggedy old t-shirt. I have three-day unshowered hair scooped up and pulled into a haphazard bun, greasy strands escaping the restraints of my elastic rubber band. I don’t have to swipe lipgloss on or part my lips in a smile. I don’t have to make small talk, I just unhinge the lock and swing the door open without hiding behind it.
I let them in without first swiping mascara on my lashes or vanishing in a cloud of dry shampoo trying to hide the damage of the lost days. I walk them through my life with the breakfast dishes resting on the table, egg yolk dried in an elongated blob like a yellow rorschach. Laundry is piling up waiting to be washed or folded, I forget which.
I can say the days have been hard, barely survivable at times. I can say that I hope towards tomorrow but find little for today. I can say there are nights so dark they wolf down my days, all fangs and bared teeth under a moon thick as a lemon wedge bobbing in a sky full of sweet tea. But all I taste is the bitter. And even still, I thirst.
My tongue has been trained by Sunday school etiquette and polite company never to spew out these words like some un-chewable gristle spit hastily into a napkin and discarded under the porcelain china setting. When “fine” is our answer, we gnash our teeth and chew and choke it down for fear of being that guest, the one at the table who fumbles with the finery and dribbles wine down the front of our shirts like we came starving to this feast. Like we forgot our manners in the house of God, and ripped into the bread like it was life, and gulped down the wine, like our tongues were on fire.
But we do. Hunger and thirst in just this way.
It’s as though Jesus knew in the breaking of the bread and the pouring of the wine how ravenous we’d be in this world. And of course he knew. He knew exactly how much we’d need reminding of the brokenness of bodies and the blood spilt because some days that’s all we seem able to see.
We swallow that reminder as flesh and blood and we come to the cross each time, to find our way back to being one body. We belong to Christ, it would be ridiculous not to belong to each other, to his body. But finding our place is a battle when all we say is, “I’m fine, and you?”
So on the nights my body is a question mark, when I fold myself up on my couch and find myself famished, I remember that honesty is our invitation.
There are so many among us that hurt and we may never know we’re sitting next to someone barely holding all the pieces together when we gather on a Sunday to sing rickety hymns and hear God’s word cracked open for us.
We may never know that mom at our playgroup is splintering off bit by bit, even as she hands over another juice box. We may not realize that man in front of us in line just listened to a voicemail from his oncologist to discuss test results that will change his life.
We need to be a people that listen for the timbre of pain among us just as much as we listen for praise. We need to set a place for the weary ones, for the crushed, for the barely holding on. Because in those moments, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and mercy are a balm for the weary and broken.
I can tell this truth because I’ve learned the ministry of honest words. This is not a litany of complaints, this is a lament of love.
So often when the world feels like the harshest truth we go quiet. We cannot bring our un-fine to the dinner party. But sometimes we let something slip, like a burp that bubbles up and escapes before we know it. And as we’re ready to die from embarrassment, our faces red and apologetic, expecting everyone to be disgusted by our vulgar display, by our body betraying us, or our lips letting loose, instead we find everyone laughs along so that when someone else spills something or doesn’t know which is the salad fork or which is the dessert fork, no one cares. We’re all human here. We’ve broken the pretense, we’ve come as honest as we can, and found company.
Our honesty is our invitation, not to make an exhibition of our failures, our messy houses, or our messy minds, our broken places, or our soiled linens. It is instead a place to simply say, I will open my door to you and not pretend. I will swing it wide with the full glow of daylight and be not ashamed because Christ brings the table to our homes and to our hearts. He is not only our sustenance, He is our feast.
I will invite you in and offer you a seat and yes, maybe you will have to wipe away the crumbs first, but you will be welcome here all your days, just as you are.
And sometimes, when honesty is our invitation, we find that those silent ones, those ones among us we never even knew were hurting, they come and knock at our door.
*Image by Jazmin Quaynor