an army of fireflies
I basically live in a bubble, and unless you just happen to be reading this while battling on the front lines of a mission field or a war zone somewhere, so do you.
It stings a little to hear that, doesn’t it? I get it. It feels pretty hard and gritty and unfair in our bubbles sometimes. Some of you are fighting cancer, or grieving the loss of a loved one, or standing shoulder-deep in fear or hurt from your current circumstances. Those things are awful and I wouldn’t dare minimize what you are going through. But the reason I say that we basically live in a bubble is because outside of these bubbles of ours – and beneath these insulated cushy-in-comparison lives we mostly get to live – there’s a entire world with a depth of depravity that we can hardly begin to wrap our brains around. This is a world that is so evil and atrociously twisted that even knowing it exists feels overwhelming. This world I speak of is the world of child sex trafficking.
Maybe, like I used to, you believe that the sexual exploitation of children is something that happens in far away countries and third world cultures. It does, and it is horrendous. And if I am a little honest, all those physical miles between my world and the world of far away sex slavery numbed things a bit for me. And if I risk being completely honest, it made it feel a little less real and a little less like I should be doing something about it.
Unfortunately, my wanting to stick my head in what I thought was safe and insulated American sand doesn’t make it any less real or less my responsibility. And just because this was something I believed was only happening in Thailand and Russia doesn’t make those girls not our girls- God’s girls- that are being sold and raped and tortured and killed. But then to find out that this is actually something that happens, not just here on American soil, but here in the great state of Texas, and even here in my beautiful city of Austin, was beyond shocking to me.
When I tell people about this, they have the same reaction I did, which is “What do you mean children are being sold for sex right here in our city and suburban neighborhoods?” And I tell them that what I mean is that CHILDREN ARE BEING SOLD FOR SEX RIGHT HERE IN OUR CITY AND SUBURBAN NEIGHBORHOODS. I know, I know – I still can’t believe it either.
But the truth is that children are being stolen or lured from their homes and forced into this sickening slavery in droves. Domestic child sex trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world, and second now only to good-old-fashioned drug trafficking, which has been ruining lives by the billions for decades. Globally, there are over 4.5 million people being sexually exploited and sold, and many of those are right here in the US. Human trafficking generates $9.5 billion yearly in the United States alone, and it is estimated that approximately 300,000 children are at risk RIGHT NOW of being prostituted here in America.
Let me make this real for you so that you aren’t getting just facts and figures: Picture your child or grandchild or sister or brother or even yourself at the age of say…12. Think of what life is/was like at that age; possible interests, hobbies, etc… Now picture that child being forced into a life of sexual slavery and abuse. If it seems brutal, good. because little girls and boys are being stolen, lured, sold, and kidnapped so that, as a way of making money for those victimizing these children, they can be raped up to 50 times a day by grown men and women right here in the US. If that isn’t sickening enough, when I think about how the average age of a sexually trafficked child is 12-14 years old, I think I cannot go on living knowing this.
The last few weeks have been especially eye opening with a flurry of meetings and events and diving head first into truly educating myself on this issue. It has been brutal and completely overwhelming. There have been, in just that short span of time, at least 2 dozen times I wanted to crawl back into my bubble, put on some fuzzy slippers and go back to my insulated life. But Jesus won’t let me.
This last Tuesday, I attended a premier for a film that highlights some of the ways children are victimized right under our noses and I had some sort of nervous breakdown over it on the way home. First came the dawning realization that this very easily could have happened to me as a child. When I think of some of the situations I put myself in, either out of stupidity or being naïve, I see the miracle in that I wasn’t victimized in this way myself. And then when I really let my heart and mind start to try to wrap itself around what it must be like to life that day after day, and I could barely see well enough to drive home for all the sobbing. I alternated back and forth between yelling at God for not doing something about this and then praying that He would somehow mold me into someone who could do something about it on his behalf. And then I got real honest with him. I told him what it really felt like, even just sitting on the fringe of knowing about this with one toe tentatively in the water of change… I said, “Sometimes, God, it doesn’t feel like you are winning.”
As a person of faith, I know, at least intellectually, that this isn’t true. The Bible tells me quite clearly that ultimately, God is victorious and that goodness prevails. But when you look around this world and you see a level of wickedness that is so beyond comprehension (and the things you see doesn’t even begin to expose the dirty underbelly,) it can be hard to believe that God is really in control. Just a glimpse into the world of sex slavery and child pornography makes me feel like evil has goodness by the hair and is pulling her down, down, down. If it weren’t for the comfort of knowing that God is ultimately victorious, I don’t think I could even handle the knowing it, never mind living it.
And I have to remember too… that God IS doing something about this. God does his work through his people. There are thousands upon thousands of people joining the ranks of God’s army right now to help fight against this atrocity. This is good and this is how it should be. Our pastor was right last week when he said that “Christians should be the very best at fighting social injustice because of who we are and whose we are.” And as Edmund Burke so eloquently put it, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
As for me, I refuse to do nothing. This holy passion that God has ignited in my heart has me suiting up for battle and lining up beside the other folks who have waged war against child sex trafficking. I cannot stand idly by while our children are being violated this way. And as I learn more and more, I am having to cling more tightly to the knowledge that God is a God of hope and can redeem even the most vile of circumstances. I am having to remember that “Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal” and that the cross is the place where the depth of our depravity meets the grandeur of God. The entire purpose for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was so that light could shine on the unholy things and make them new again.
I have always loved how goodness in literature and spirituality is often represented as light, which I’m sure is based on the fact that God himself is known as light. 1 John 1:5 even tells us that, “This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.” Scripture also tells us that the devil does his dirtiest deeds in darkness. And while it’s terrifying to look something like sex trafficking in the face and think “I don’t want to wait in those dark waters. I don’t want to know what goes on in the evil underbelly of the sex industry. I can’t carry the burden of that darkness,” every time we fight for the exploited and the innocent, we are each like little tiny lights clicking on in that darkness, bringing healing and hope to those who have been victimized. So when I feel like this thing is just way too big and way too bad for little ol’ me to do anything about, I remember whose team I am on and how even the tiniest bit of light will give darkness some trouble. It is as Martin Luther King Jr. said; “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that…”
If God is light and I am God’s, then I want to live as a flicker of light in a world that is suffocating in darkness. It doesn’t seem like I can do much on my own, but I imagine the clickclickclick of these little lights coming on all over the world, like fireflies of hope on the horizon.
If you are interested in how you can join this army of fireflies, email me for more information and stay tuned on the blog!