The Morning After

You don’t walk into a house full of sex-trafficked teenager girls and think for a moment that you have anything in your toolbox to repair the damage–no matter what your background lends.

They look like any other female teenager in middle America.

Until you look into their eyes.

Behind the signature hair and heavy liner is a pinhole view into a vault of brokenness that virtually sucks the breath out of you.

As I make my way through introductions I am caught in the polarity of lighthearted interaction and a weighty spirit-deep intercession that silently groans from the recognition of my own impotence in the face of such need. On one level I smile and link arms with their humor but at a deeper place I have fallen to my knees and cry out to Almighty, Merciful God. And I tell myself to keep breathing–breathe in the Light that penetrates the darkness. Breathe out the Love that qualifies any effort to make a difference.

I smile-watch as she combs through a ragged box of Christmas decorations–dropped off by the smileless mother deemed unfit. She proffers these remnants of childhood with a demi-description of their history–bits and fragments of joy salvaged from unspeakable neglect. And most are tethered to a loving grandparent, now deceased, who tried to make a difference. She clings to her treasures and the fleeting memory of the few who really loved her. I celebrate with her. I handle and admire. I listen. This sliver of a moment interrupts her shatteredness while she abandons herself to enjoy the tree and the lights–and the vaporous sense of family and belonging.

I fein the need to use the restroom so I can breathe an inarticulate prayer. And I hear the faint nag of impossibility knocking at the door. How is it possible, Lord? How can we reach them with your love and point them to The Road out of their barren, hopeless wasteland of soul-anguish?

And I breathe in Grace–the pre-requisite to tread the hollowed ground of another’s sorrow. I exhale any remnant of myself tempted to hold to a notion that I might be able to help.  And I remind myself that when our Lord drew His first breath into infant lungs on that silent and holy night, He pulled into Himself the full strain of our human disease–the epidemic of our sin-sickness and our pending and inevitable death. And He kept breathing the essence of our brokenness into His wholeness until He released His final breath and declared,

IT IS FINISHED. 

In all this reverent breathing I am reminded of this Advent I have purposed to focus on Hope. And I am stricken with the irony that our Hope and Salvation arrived through the very conveyance by which these girls have been profoundly violated and exploited. The birth canal, the corridor of life-giving, in them, became a chamber for exploitation. And as our Father ushered His son into the world through human birthing, He did so with them in mind.

With all of us in mind who have been ravaged by the one who comes to abort our hope and destroy our lives.

My tearful prayer the morning after:

Father, I can’t avert my eyes from the muck of the manger no matter how much more pleasant it is to focus on tinsel and tradition. And it’s always this way, Lord! We walk a tight rope of paradoxical truths. You are the glorious Light of the world that our eyes behold and our hearts hold dear but our feet trek through profound darkness. I so want Your light to shine through me. Let me be a Christmas star in the dark night of these girls’ lives–a bright light that points to You, our Hope–the ONLY HOPE of salvation. Of healing. Of restoration. Like Mary, you have chosen to dwell in me. “How can this be?” O God, by your mysterious ways, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead resides in me. Again, “How can this be?” Don’t let me be like Zechariah who doubted your plan and Your power. Father, in donkey-riding weakness, in manger-style humility I follow you to this census, this accounting for souls, and I remind you of these girls who are beyond my hands to reach. Lord, like Google Earth, zoom in on these girls. Ready their hearts for You. Set them apart for your special attention and preserve them until the day their eyes are opened and their hearts believe. Cocoon them in the silk of your salvation and transform their lives into a glorious banner of redemption.

The angel of the Lord replied, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…for nothing is impossible with God.’

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