Slavery; Shedding Shame to Grow a Voice
Simon stumbled through the words of a simplified version of the story of Moses setting his people free. He couldn't understand at his seven years of age how Pharaoh's daughter could be kind enough to adopt Moses yet have slaves. I tried my best to explain that sometimes our hearts become hardened to the things that break God's heart, but that doesn't mean it is hardened to all things. Sometimes we have a funny way of picking and choosing what is sin or what is morally wrong or not; since when did we become the authority on atrocity?
This past couple of weeks, I have had the weighty privilege to hear stories of atrocities, either witnessed firsthand or personal accounts. Real stories, in this present day, of mothers selling their children to be objects of pleasure to men who would go home and live seemingly normal lives with their families. Stories of girls with numbers marked on their uncovered bellies, where they stand on stage to be bid on, girls that could be my own daughters; marked like cattle at an auction. Young girls thinking they found love only to have their love interest remove them from their families with the promise of a good life, and then trade her to the highest bidder.
I am guilty of being a part of the slow fade to validation of crimes against humanity. I have held secrets of a beloved family member touching me inappropriately, because I was afraid of marking myself as more of a black sheep, a troublemaker, a liar. I have remained quiet about a man who said that he loved my heart, then belittled me and took from me what he wanted while my tears wet his face. He didn't even wipe them away as he spewed hateful words. I was afraid of being labeled a victim, weak, afraid of repercussions for his innocent family and my own, if I spoke out. I was embarrassed that I was so eager to love, that I missed the signs that should have been blaring sirens. I was afraid to speak because he was bigger than me, more cleverly manipulative, more affluent; a giant I could not fight. Then fear turned to shame when I heard of the abuse of others, how could I have a right to speak in their defense, when in my own fear I remained silent about abuse that perhaps found a new victim for lack of my boldness.
We carry the shame of acts done against us and perhaps acts we have participated in ourselves. One human trafficking activist surmised that she believes there is not as much noise against present day slavery, because of the shame many carry. We are ashamed to admit we were tricked by another or by our own naivete and internal longings, and were misused or did the misusing. Without meaning to, did we watch child pornography, not realizing what appeared to be a young woman was a minor child? We remain silent, because we don't believe that we have a right to speak up.
We are very polarized in our view of people. We think that people are either good or bad. This limits our ability to think of our sweet neighbor as being a consumer of child pornography, or the addict on the streets having been serially raped since childhood and either forced to take drugs or finding their only reprieve from violence in the numbing effects of the drugs. A person is neither wholly good nor wholly evil. The man who raped me is known to be generous to his friends, charming, and understanding; and if I am being objective, has other positive attributes. We may not like to think of it, but these perpetrators, Jesus died for them as well. I don't suggest they are not deserving of justice served. I do suggest that someone who violates another does not do so because everything went well in their life. This is the part of the Gospel that I struggle with the most. That the grace of God is sufficient for even the most vile of perpetrators. I haven't arrived at complete sanctification. The thought of seeing known rapists and pedophiles in Heaven someday, does not give me warm fuzzies, but if I cannot accept that as the reality of grace and mercy, then how can I truly accept that gift of salvation for myself? Please remember, grace and mercy are not void of justice.
We have got to loosen the chains that bind us to shame. There is no sin too great that the blood of Christ does not cover. When we choose to allow our shame of acts done against us or that we have done, to make us mute against immoral behavior, we are allowing those acts to continue to steal. We are not the sum of our mistakes and shortcomings, not when we've met Jesus, and he so directly tells us to give him our sin so that we might be free. And if we love Jesus, we ought to strive to see people through the lens of Christ, washed in the blood of an innocent sacrifice, who cared to your name. He looked into your life in entirety and saw the trauma you would experience, he saw the dark parts of your heart and showed that all of you is redeemable by spreading his arms wide and suffering that you, and I, might truly live.
In the valley of the Hudson River, amidst the beauty of Upstate New York, a pastor preached a sermon to a younger version of myself that summed up, was God uses even the worst of people to complete his will. When someone we admired is revealed to be guilty of pedophilia, when a curmudgeon brings to justice a particular evil, why are we surprised? Have we not looked within ourselves to see the potential for evil in our own hearts? When we see that potential, do we accept it as face value and speak boldly against it? I don't know that I would be a criminal, were it not for Christ in my life, but I do know, that without the light of his love shining into the recesses of my broken heart, I would not be who I am.
I am convicted still, that while I have freedom, I hold my shame more dearly than the lives of those who suffer at this very moment. Will you join me in shedding your shame, and become a voice for the silenced, the oppressed? Maybe we all are a bit like Pharaoh's daughter; a person who while not entirely innocent, with one bold act of love, can set in motion the emancipation of many.