A history of recent events and a word about shame.
Well, well. It’s been a few days! I haven’t had a lot of moments to myself. For the most part, life has settled into a pattern here in North Carolina. I spend most of my waking hours with E. This week she started working at Sheri’s gift shop, which has kept her busy and she loves the activity. We’ve been running almost every day, which is awesome fun! And I started teaching her how to use watercolors, since she already knows about oil paints and wanted to try something new. In the mornings I am left to myself. To be honest, time alone is a little bit weird, because I have no friends here. So I’ve been baking a lot. I don’t know what happened- it’s like someone turned on the Betty Crocker switch. I made a pie, cookies, muffins, cookies (again), a cobbler, and cupcakes within a couple weeks. Yikes. Sheri and I can’t even eat that much! So I had to pause the baking until we finish all the food I made, and resorted to reading.
The nearest thing happened to be Les Misérables , which I resolved to read before the new movie comes out at Christmas. That monster of a novel has been sitting on my shelf for over a year. I didn’t know what I was missing out on. This is a beautiful story about redemption. It’s hard to read it and not think about the Gospel. Do I have a new favorite book? I definitely think so. (I’m officially stoked to see the movie.)
The story centers on a man named Jean Valjean: a criminal. He is released after spending 20 years in prison. Upon his release, he is given a yellow passport, which marks him as a dangerous criminal wherever he goes. Due to his yellow passport, he is unable to find anywhere to stay, though he has money. He is rejected by society and denied basic necessities: food, water, shelter. He finds himself free from bondage and yet judged by the people around him. In the words of the narrator,
“Liberation is not deliverance. A convict may leave the galleys behind, but not his condemnation.”
Substitute the word “prostitute” for convict, and you may understand a little better what it feels like to be a victim of sex trafficking.
Liberation is not deliverance. A prostitute may leave the streets behind, but not her condemnation.
Girls who are rescued from situation of sex trafficking often feel bound by shame because society does not welcome their freedom. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase “Once a slut, always a slut.” Unfortunately, that is the attitude many girls face when leaving a life of prostitution. Rap says you “Can’t turn a ho into a housewife.” I know plenty of girls who wonder how they’re supposed to hope for a normal life. How to go back to high school when all your classmates know you were a ho? How to get a boyfriend when he knows all of the things you did? How to get a job when your boss sees you have a record? The world doesn’t welcome these girls with open arms, which partly explains why many of them never leave. Teenage trafficking victims turn into lifelong strippers and prostitutes because it’s the only world where they are still welcomed. Society scorns them, though Newsweek says at least 15% of men have paid for sex. (Why does the shame fall on these women? Who shames the man that pays for sex?)
Maybe it’s time we started thinking from another perspective. Maybe it’s time to stop calling people “bitch,” “ho,” “whore,” and “slut.” Maybe it’s time to stop making fun of prostitutes, and maybe it’s time to stop acting like they’re so dirty. Maybe those girls are prostitutes because they were trafficked in their teens. And maybe they’re still prostitutes because you’ve shown them they don’t have a shot at getting out. So what if she’s had sex with a hundred men? That doesn’t always mean she wanted to. The organization I am working with runs a call center which makes calls to strip clubs and brothels all over the United States. They have offered help many women who work in the sex industry. It isn’t unusual for a girl on the other end of the phone to begin crying and say, “You really think you can help me get out?”
Maybe it’s time to be compassionate. The Bible says that God is extremely compassionate. He doesn’t shame us for our sins; he has cast them into the sea and chosen to remember them no more. Our liberation is complete! Our freedom is abundant. We are free from both the consequences and shame of our sin, because Christ has taken them for us on the cross. What right do I have to condemn another when I have been forgiven of so much? None. And how can I deny hope to another when I have been given an everlasting hope? I can’t. So I thank God for his grace in my life and extend the same grace he’s shown to me. I do what I can to let them know they’re loved and offer hope for a different kind of life so that they too can come to know a deeper and lasting hope in Christ. Maybe you can pray for their hearts also.