“Break me open, God in motion. Light my world with fire and rain.” – UPB
I went numb again. Months ago my cry to God was, “I want to feel everything!” in an act of sheer rebellion to the fear and lackluster cage I previously hid within. “Do you know what vulnerability brings?” asked a friend; he was on the brink of tearing up as he spoke. “HURT!” my mind shouted in response, but my lips didn’t move. My weary heart thumped in anticipation of the words to come as he began to answer his own query. “Love.” he simply stated, “It brings a whole lot of love.” I had just told him that vulnerability was what God was teaching me about lately, and felt my heart swish about as I recalled the depths God was revealing to me. God truly loves me. There’s no way around it. And my own rescue has been profound. Not by any other earthly measures, perhaps, but my story is a rescue to me and a love like His, I’ve never known. A love from a Father who knows me even if my first (second, or third) choice will never be to let things go and live with arms open. But I did, and I do, choose the letting go, though it hurts at times and though it is a lengthening process. I do it to feel Him delight in me. Not that the act of the vulnerable in turn brings God’s love, but that I am most acutely aware of Him in those moments.
This past year I saw God’s presence in the hallway of a brothel in Atlanta. The primary form of ministry and outreach I gravitate toward involves the fight against sex trafficking, primarily in the US (mainly because so little has been made aware, as yet). This past year, among starting outreach to a new club, among volunteering with established anti-trafficking outreach, and among researching nonprofits around the globe that are taking a stand against this, God’s presence was made aware to me in new ways. In essence, now I would describe this form of outreach to strip clubs and brothels more simply, in that our intention is to build a stronger awareness of the presence of God that already resides with these women in these places. And we build this awareness by loving well, honoring, and simply knowing, accepting, and being a real friend to the women. There is no objectification, no objectifying job titles, no stereotypes. There is simply room to be daughters in a smoky room and share stories of beautiful and sometimes harsh life together. To speak life, to be cared for, to be thought of, is restorative. It is so darn simple.
It was pure white smoke that held no shadow, and it swirled around me and the group I was with as we prayed restoration through the hallways of the brothel. I could feel the wind from God’s movement. If you think that sounds crazy, the same thing happened weeks later during song-led worship and I actually felt my hair moving all around my head and face, but it wasn’t actually moving at all. I’ve been worn down by a love I seriously don’t understand, because I delight in His delight in me. Or, I’m learning this, anyhow as my faith grows and the rules of the past subside and flow away. Even in the silly questions or my wildest tantrum, there’s a reassurance and a shift in atmosphere, my faith will make me whole. It’s not the presence of God being more tangible that changes, however, it is my awareness and choice to see.
There was so much to learn on the Dream Tour and the visit to Asia. There was so much to take in and I see grace in these things and because of this grace I am learning to extend that to myself. So, when I have talked about being overwhelmed by trafficking to the point of inaction, I can have grace when I fall there this past month, immobile. I knew I couldn’t stay there, but I fell there. Perhaps it was a season of absorption. I don’t know, quite frankly, but the sights we saw and the stories we heard and the things I know I cannot un-know. I had been so lost lately in the numb that I barely functioned at all, to some degree. I certainly didn’t want to write the experience verbatim, it was too much to wrap my mind around and I can tell you from experience, it is quite the conversation killer.
The truth about this great love we share and the places we share it, or at least my truth, is that the depth of the sadness in the reality we find (in the pushing away or difficulty in receiving the love) can carry me toward or away from my Father. The dark is heavy in the mess of evil things. No one seems to want to know the truth because that makes it more real and calls us to action. No one wants to hear the heart beats behind the pain, because it’s too easy to only see pain. And yes, it’s harsh and dark, and raw, and unkind, and dark things that occur that we may knowingly partake of (strip clubs, porn, objectification) without awareness of the consequence and heartbeat and relationship are too easy to cycle back into to mask the shame. But God’s love resides with you, and this is no place for shame, simply restoration. It’s easy to only see the darkness, but most of my research this Autumn has brought me renewed hope, actually, when I get to the bare (waking up!) bones about it. When we move beyond the immobilizing shock of darkness to see the light and the potential for new life, we can see God’s presence in the brothel where we previously only felt weight, darkness, and burden.
Who truly wants to know the pain of this love? Like I said, this crazed sense of justice kicks in and I tend to get all high and mighty about activism on the subject because these are now actual heart beats and friends of mine trapped. Yet, I too become numb and immobilized at times, unhinged by this great sadness. How can I tell it without creating a lackluster army of immobile, grief and fear-stricken warriors, shields up? What part of my journeys do you really want to know? Do you want to hear my funny stories of tourism, or do you want to hear about the hotline number on the tuk tuks that leads to the rescue of children as young as 3 trapped in sex trafficking? Because the latter forces a realization that it’s real, it’s happening, and these are babies being raped for profit.
You can’t just be angry forever, and you can’t do anything immediately, and do you shut down or is it possible to realize that the hope and light is present in that a tuk tuk is a mode of transportation that has eyes all over the cities. People are fighting for light and freedom and it is working!
It’s interesting here, admitting immobility and extending grace to myself. It’s odd, because I can still, while immobile, choose to spout out bitter facts about a dying world. The immobility and fear contribute to this and behave badly because it does not allow me to see past the darkness into the fully lit expanse that God is redeeming, rescuing, and equipping for greater things.
God is in the brothel even when I’m overcome with sickness and want to leave, God is in the strip club even when apathy drags me to my couch, God is with those babies even if I can’t do anything immediately to stop what is happening to them. There is light and protection and hope. God calls us to these things not because of what we have to offer but because in these places we can experience the learning alongside the Father as He delights in our attempts, failures, and successes.
A call to faith and action! So, in addition to other facts and figures, educating and hoping, I have a radical idea! In addition to building relationship, knowing others, loving well, and being community, I propose something that will move the mountain. See below…
“I tell you,…nothing would be impossible.” (Matt. 17:20)
“…In Him there is no darkness at all.” (1John 1:5)
“…Passion laughs at the terrors of hell…” (Songs 8:6-7)
- That those who hear these stories will come alive with hope and creation ideas for true change in themselves and others.
- That those enslaved will feel peace and security in God’s presence and will find full rescue physically, emotionally, spiritually.
- For those working in service against this violence and injustice, to feel everything! But that the light always far outweighs the dark things.
- For your own heart to hear, know, and tell, and in the process let it free you!
You, too, are worthy of rescue and redemption. Have grace for yourself as you work through the knowledge of darkness and find light.
How have you experienced God as rescuer?
A resource for Georgia is below. I implore you to find hotline numbers for your area, or let me know and I will do the research for you.
Out of Darkness is a nonprofit rescuing women in Atlanta and surrounding areas of GA. If you suspect trafficking in this area call their hotline: