Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
I have been back home for exactly 24 hours now. It’s so wonderful, so beautiful and peaceful. I am filled with gratitude to be here. And yet… it is all so odd. I’m trying to finish shopping for Christmas, but my heart isn’t in it. Too much has been seen and felt in the past 10 days. Young girls forced to service much older men because their pimp, family, poverty and/or society demands it. Boys made to change themselves to look and act like girls in order to better make money on the streets or in the bars. And then…those little kids in Connecticut. It is too much. Shopping holds no therapy. Life feels heavy right now, and it’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year.
I was going to recap our trip by hitting all the high notes, sharing hope. Because it DOES exist, in Bangkok and in so many other places where evil has taken over. But as much as their is hope, their is also a time for grief over the evil of it all. My heart is raw. I want and need to be angry about it. I don’t care about finding the perfect holiday sweater or unpacking my suitcase. I care very much that evil is overtaking the streets of Bangkok and shooting up an elementary school.
The truth is, part of me doesn’t ever want to go back. To Thailand. To watching the news (and that’s ironic for those who know me). To pushing myself outside my happy little blessed existence into facing the darkness and depravity of humanity. I just want to stalk real estate and fashion blogs online, do my ridiculously awesome job from home, be a great mom to Ella and wife to Daryl and friend to those around me. I want to punch the clock at church, eat out, spend money without thinking, go home, sing Christmas carols and pretend that nothing else in the world exists. The problem is that now I know better. There is no going back. There is no reconciling my “normal” with what I have seen, felt, smelled and touched first hand. Living a life of comfort is not what living life as a Christ follower is about. If you want to get “uncomfortable” real quick, go to a place where evil is on display. And never is that more real and tangible than in those red light districts, or in what showed up at Sandy Hook Elementary. It is all so fresh and oppressive though, that sometimes it’s easy to think that evil is winning.
But that’s not where hope lives. Hope is in the phone call that Pastor Nijorn, the speaker at the Christmas parties, received from a girl who works at Soi Cowboy. She went out of her way to hunt him down on the phone the day after the parties because she just had to tell him that because of the words spoken through him and the love she experienced at the party, she knew for the first time ever she had value and that Jesus loves her so much that her past is forgiven. She believes that there is hope for her future, a hope for her life.
Hope is in the girls at Beginnings who have regained much of their childlike innocence, who dance with each other with abandon and hold each other tight when one of them cries out of a memory of abuse. Hope is in that house, where lives go to start over. To begin again. Hope is when those very same girls, who once were put on display on one of those grimy, neon-lit stages or sold their bodies on the streets, walks boldly back into those red light districts–the places of their darkest memories–because they can’t leave their sisters behind without sharing the hope that they have. And yes, hope is even in watching our President emerge from a vicious election to end the year in tears while relaying compassion as a man, a father and a human to those who need it the most right now. A man who surprised many by quoting from the Bible to bring that hope to mourners during the memorial service in Newtown, Connecticut. THAT is hope.
We need to grieve, as a nation and a humanity, when faced with this type of evil. But just like those girls at Beginnings, there is then a time to be bold. To stand up and fight. To share hope and love, and the promise that tomorrow can be better than yesterday. It’s the only way to believe that next Christmas there will be no empty stockings in Connecticut and fewer young girls and boys being sold in Bangkok, and around the world.
But if we hope for what is still unseen by us, we wait for it with patience and composure. -Romans 8:25