It was the picture of smitten first love. Boy & girl notice each other across campus. They find a chance meeting with a mutual friend. They become inseparable, going on walks, watching movies, sharing stories, and living them out. Boy takes girl to a college formal. They have their first kiss at the beach, which eventually leads to getting caught making out in cars. Typical. They were only 19, and little babies at loving well. What did they know? They both fell into love like an atom bomb, equal parts mesmerizing, beautiful, and destructive. As time went on, there were clear signs that it wasn’t working well, and there were words and actions ill-communicated that cut into hearts so deeply. Words from deep brokenness killed parts of the soul and seemed so true in their hearts because they trusted one another so profoundly and without caution. The risks were great and they would stop at nothing to go together through their wild love, at least for a time.
The killing words spoken into existence settled into the soul and we acted them out perfectly. A perfect poison, as if my beauty was made for destruction and our love was there to condemn and break apart. I learned then that my beauty was destructive, that I was shameful and could not give enough to satisfy what was already broken. Those bitter lies became my cornerstone.
“I would respect you more if you had denied my advances.” Brokenness, when spoken and acted upon, destroys the purity of the love God intended for us. The messages of our beauty being a stumbling block and our love a distraction bury dying seeds of deadened roots that block out the joy of a life of full-circle love without condition.
After years of trying, the break-up was inevitable. However, still blind-sided and shattered. “We never really loved one another.” Words cut into the soul like an irretrievable and silent whisp buried in a heart that shut down access to joy and full-life. I didn’t want God to even touch this. I didn’t trust a soul with my love and vowed without my full realization to never be vulnerable and to hide my beauty.
It was years before I would allow God access to heal it. It was a 4-year, slow walk into the dark soul before I fell flat on my back in the sludge of my undoing.
Why do I share this story? It’s only just a part of the unraveling of the feminine heart. It’s a story in the midst of lies already embedded. There were lies before this and after. Because sometimes we choose to open our hearts wide in wild abandon to the wrong things. It is not just my story, it is a story many know and it is at the root of oppression and exploitation. Not being known, not knowing who you are. Identity issues. Heart issues.
The Light of the Broken
Our resistance to truly knowing the broken people is a deep irony of life. It is in our arrogance that we assume the roles of hierarchy that separate us from receiving a deeper love and even greater presence of God. It is in those seemingly dark places, the places where the “unworthy” reside, that I have found Jesus more clearly than any church pew. It is there, in the strip bars and brothels, that I find myself brought down low at the feet of Jesus, not worthy to tie up these women’s shoes. Why? Because there in the obvious mess of a life not knowing the depth of God’s love for you, I recognize that in my knowledge of God I missed a whole lot of His heart. My brokenness and my mess, while appearing better but hidden and tidy, is worse because I claim things that I now must learn to live out in ways that are completely uncharted, broken, and messy. Places we avoid for fear of looking foolish, stupid, judgemental, and uptight. Let me tell you, you are probably those things, and that’s part of what will be refined. That’s the heart of meeting people where they are at in their story, to say, YOU are worthy of being truly known. Not everyone should go to strip bars to find this, and most of you shouldn’t. But think of the messiness of your own life, and those around you. Who can you sit with, smile at, share coffee with? Who can you call worthy of knowing today?
Who can you KNOW? Because ultimately, this issue (of trafficking, of lonely, of homeless, of fear), I believe, is of others not being known or of having a misplaced identity. I promise, this will change your life and you will never be ready for the transformation that will eventually come. It’s all the more reason to jump into the mess of the lonely, broken, and hurting and together fight for freedom! What you think is dark harbors light, what you think is light is often mirrors deflecting the light of the broken to shield the fearful from the life of freedom that comes with admitting and breaking free from the brokenness we hold onto like a savior.
Brokenness tends to find a loophole where our sudden and seeming joy can dissipate in the shock of emptiness that follows the instant gratification of our lonely hearts. There are many reasons that we, as people, exploit beauty and empty our souls into things that don’t fulfill but in the end, it’s our choices that define what the future of freedom will be. Do we choose to open our hearts again, but to something holy that cleanses? Are we calling that out in one another? We often grasp onto things that are not ours to hold and empty our souls into darkness and lose ourselves in the process. We are the lost. When is the last time you walked into a church and knew we had it all together? Why are you still looking for God in a church building?
The light in the eyes of the women and men that are called names: pimp, evil, whore, slut, exploiter. In the process toward becoming like a child I see it, because children understand children best. The light in their eyes is still there, as a glimmer I often see of the child inside of them called names: worthless, stupid, alone, dirty, unwanted. Broken hearts cry out, and God is near to them. NEW, NEW, NEW! Clean, worthy, joyful, hope-filled! God spends His time there with them. With us, in our brokenness, too, God fights for us. If you go there, to the broken and messy places and people, you will feel God. You go to church to feel His presence, but feel nothing? Go be a neighbor to other broken people, as your messy self, and experience God more fully than you have. Often you see, you’re not actually the one bringing the light, you’re the one more fully experiencing stepping into God’s presence in a seemingly dark place. Because God resides with His children, providing light when theirs has gone out. If you’re looking for God, find Him there.
Coming soon: Part 3; To be continued…