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. 

Quiet hunger

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

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.
  • Linda Stoll

    Good Morning, friend … I long ago added FINE to my list of unspeakable F words. For it’s a sad mask to wear and one nigh impossible to penetrate.

    We all come thirsty, it’s just that some of us are more willing to be up front about it.

    But only if we feel safe …

    July 20th, 2016 7:20
    • Alia Joy Hagenbach

      Yes, I used to say fine too because everything else seemed a bother or too much to really say out loud. I think I just got so tired. It’s exhausting trying to hold all the ends of yourself together. You never really feel known. It still amazes me how much people want to share when they feel safe. How open people actually are to the messiness of life if someone will just make space for it. I want to live that kind of hospitality, wide open right where you are.

      July 20th, 2016 11:37
  • Theresa

    Honesty is so important in our society where perfection is touted as acheivable and stares at us from the pages of magazines. Yet, perfection is an illusion and honesty is real. Give me honesty any day.

    July 20th, 2016 20:33
    • Alia Joy

      Yes, perfection is an illusion that so many of us buy into and it ends up robbing us of deeper relationship and intimacy that can only be felt through honesty.

      July 27th, 2016 13:48
  • Devi

    “the lament of our love” – YES. I love this, and have lived it as well. In some ways it has helped to be able to blurt out the hard things to people, and see the reactions. If eyes glaze over and they start to back away, I know the connection will take more time.. but for the ones who get it, their eyes brighten and they feedback their own wilderness story, and it is so beautiful. I often think the imperfect space in our lives invites more people in than the perfect ones. I love reading your words, Alia.

    July 21st, 2016 0:45
    • Alia Joy

      Ha! I know that eyes glazed over look so well. But yes, the ones who get it, they’re worth every moment of awkwardness with the ones who don’t. I agree on imperfection making space for others more than our perfectly manicured ones. Thanks for reading, Devi. SO glad to have you writing here too.

      July 27th, 2016 13:51
  • Melissa Longval

    Yes! Fine is an “F” word I choose not to use. I love this and you write so beautifully. I ache for honesty. To be wholly authentic without dramatizing or languishing.

    July 21st, 2016 11:33
    • Alia Joy

      That’s one way to remember not to use it! I ache for it too. I find the more honest I am, the more likely others will be too. No drama, no self-pity, just an honest way to connect with others. Thanks for reading, Melissa.

      July 27th, 2016 13:52
  • Mindy

    I have been that one barely holding the pieces together, hoping for one to notice. On the other side now, I try so much harder to look for one that might be in the same condition as I was.

    July 22nd, 2016 19:52
    • Alia Joy

      I totally agree, Mindy. We can learn so much if we glean from our experiences while being in that broken place. I agree that I can see brokenness in others in a way I never could. Maybe some of it is just paying attention and being willing to listen. It’s a gift to be able to comfort those with the comfort we’ve been shown.

      July 27th, 2016 13:54
  • Emily Lofgren

    Thank you for another wonderful post, Alia! I’m so thankful for your writing! I used to say, “I’m doing well!” or “Great!” when others would ask how I’m doing no matter what. Even if I wasn’t feeling well I would say these things. I’ve started realizing, especially with being chronically ill, that being honest about how we really feel is an opportunity for understanding and genuine love.

    July 24th, 2016 11:20
    • Alia Joy

      Yes, it’s an opportunity to invite people into our lives and so many of our lives include chronic illness or depression or financial difficulties. Not everything is easy or pretty and we’re so much better off being able to share our burdens with one another. I’ve seen how telling the truth about hard things on days when we’re not fine often opens up space for others to enter in and walk beside us. Thanks for reading, Emily!

      July 27th, 2016 13:57
  • susan sabahi

    Dear Alia,
    Love your writing, its makes it easierto accept the hard places in our lives when someone opens the door to theirs. Christ came for the broken hearted-what we forget to share with one another is Christianity is so worth the journey but its not a perfect smooth road. It at times is paved with pain and suffering. Thank you for your yes to stepping out in vulnerability and telling your story, it makes it eaiser to accept mine. To know in the brokeness and limitations
    Christ is telling his story through us, a story of love, redemption, revival. And Thank you for taking the time to speak to me at the California Connect. You inspire me to embrace my life with all its imperfections and live the best version of who am, to lay down the shame of my past and live in the present moment.

    July 30th, 2016 1:53

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