Saturday, September 8, 2012

Doing Justice

Almost exactly two years ago, my heart began to be awakened to ugliness.

All my life I've been surrounded by beauty. Colorado streaks beauty in vibrant, vivid splashes from a palette as endless as God's ability; beauty was natural, beauty was real, beauty mattered. Art, music, creativity, invention, all indispensable hues, intertwining, dancing, marrying and begetting more beauty.

Then ugliness came and ravaged a ragged gash in the landscape.

I wasn't completely unaware of ugliness. Even the most sheltered child in America has to be blind and deaf not to know that it exists, that in dark corners and questionable districts, the ugliness is lurking. The question is not whether it exists; rather, it is that when we leave childhood behind, do we choose to acknowledge the ugliness, or do we go on pretending that it doesn't exist, or ignoring its existence?

I did not choose, because, thankfully, two years ago, God did not leave choice up to me. He took the ugliness and with it He broke my heart. At the same time I was learning how to love the man who would become my husband, I began to learn how to care about a world that is systematically destroying itself with ugliness.

(It might be good to note that the word I am using, ugliness, is simply a metaphor for a concept that is considered very out-of-date in our culture: sin. I believe all forms of ugliness, both literal and metaphorical, to be a result of the effects of sin in the world. If you want to know where I believe sin came from, read Genesis 3.)

The ugly manifests itself in ways antithetical to the beauty, for its goal is to stamp out beauty, to consume it. Selfishness destroys love. Corruption and greed undermine honest work. Indulgence stifles gratitude. Abuse and violence shatter relationships, communities, countries. Indifference enables all the ugliness to continue unabated.

I think God is systematically destroying my indifference.

The first real sign was two years ago, when I started learning the statistics and stories of sex-trafficking around the world and in this country. Some of you may have read the posts in my old blog about this. Some of you may have noticed when I stopped writing about it. The fire flamed up, and then burnt low.   Thank God– He did not allow it to go out. At first the ugliness was all I could think of, but then I learned how to compartmentalize it. I never forgot, but the first glimpse lost its power. I don't know if my circumstantial excuses were valid or not: working, schooling, getting engaged, planning a wedding. Perhaps they were not valid.

After the Pilot got his assignment and I found out we'd be spending a year in Phoenix, I remembered the organization I had discovered in my initial burst of enthusiastic research: a Christian ministry called Streetlight USA, which is unique in that one of its main focuses is to provide long term care, healing, and complete rehabilitation for girls rescued out of sex slavery in the United States. Their campus is in Phoenix. I started wondering.

Last February, my heart broke again, but this time more easily, because the divinely-placed fault line was already there. I read an article about the increase in sex-trafficking because of the Super Bowl, and the Pilot found me in tears. I wrote this post because I wanted to write something, to do something. I didn't know what else to do. Life was busy. I had a new marriage and I was finishing school. We were going to move.

Then we moved here, and God started bombarding me with messages. My friend, challenging me to find out what my time in Phoenix is going to be about. Multiple sermons, speaking of putting hands and feet to what I say I believe is the truth, and taking the sacrificial love of Jesus to a world which is starving for it even as it tries to feed itself in the ugliness. The book that my friend and I are reading, Generous Justice, in which Tim Keller tells me that the extent to which I understand grace is the extent to which my life will overflow with acts of mercy and justice towards the poor of the world– the forgotten, the downtrodden, the hopeless, the weary. Conversation after conversation. Sometimes God speaks clearly and I knew that this wasn't going to stop.

It has become clear to me that girls in sex slavery are my burden. My heart is growing tender to many different types of the ravagings of sin in the world, but sex slavery stops me dead in my tracks, turns my thoughts off myself and my own comfort, and throws the gauntlet at my feet. Perhaps my motivation has only increased as a new wife, as I explore in wide-eyed wonder the garden of intimacy unlocked for me by marriage, and I am filled with wide-eyed horror that so many little girls have that ripped away from them, that what should be precious and beautiful becomes an instrument of torture in the hands of the men who violate them.

In my last post I wrote about living in the present, living intentionally. I realized, afterwards, that in this new season that the Pilot and I are entering, I am in a situation uncommon for people my age– I have only one class left in school, I do not have to work to support myself, and thus time and resources are there for me to serve in ways that other stages of life would not allow. With my husband's often-time ten to twelve hour workdays, I will have an abundance of days where I'll be by myself, with minimal responsibilities. I have realized that this stage is an opportunity which I do not want to waste.

So take these ramblings for what they are– a shy, nervous introduction to a new chapter in a life which is making the first halting attempt to reflect a Biblical picture of what the lives of Jesus-freaks like me should be: "He has told you, O man, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8). 

This issue is not all I intend to blog about. Life and faith still constantly tumble out new ideas for writing, ideas that are less sober, not heart-breaking. Sometimes, though, our hearts need to be broken, and then broken again. I invite you– I ask you, don't look away. Perhaps we can look together at the evils which are easier to ignore– look long, look hard, look honestly. And then maybe we can turn our looking into acting, our thinking into doing.

In my second post on this blog, I asked myself: "Can I listen to grace?"

Now I ask myself: "When Grace speaks, will I have the courage and obedience to act on what I hear?"

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