Those lines in the sand? Those are mine. Drawn several years ago when first confronted with sex slavery. Yep. I drew my lines – not going to go there. Can’t. Won’t. It will undo me, and I just cannot be undone, overwhelmed, yet again. I just can’t. Nope. I am not going to do it.
My church held a women’s conference some years ago. One of the speakers presented on her ministry surrounding the rescuing of girls out of sex slavery – What? What?? I was horrified that such a trade even existed.
I managed to bury that fast and deep.
A few years later, I was studying to be a licensed counselor. A classmate casually mentioned mission work she had done with girls rescued out of the sex trade industry. My stomach turned as a wave of nausea rippled through my body.
That’s your calling, not mine, thank you very much. Meanwhile, a haunting question began to whisper in my soul, “Is this where You want me to go?”
My heart pounded a resounding, “No!”
Less than a year passed, another classmate spoke about his call to minister to girls and young women who had been trapped in sex trafficking. How? Really? He felt he would end up in India.
… but what if…
A few months more and this was now invading my sacred space, church. Terrific. There it was, in the small-group directory, staring at me in the face – a small-group to raise awareness and to provide outreach opportunities into our communities for those coming out of human trafficking. Wait! WAIT!! HERE???!!!
I am NOT going to go there. Period! And that is FINAL!!
And there was silence in my soul.
Six weeks later, I was volunteering at our food pantry and clothing closet at church. I began chatting with the woman who oversees the clothing closet, and she “just happened” to be one of the group leaders of, yep, you guessed it, the small-group on human trafficking. *Sigh*
I just hung my head, shook it, looked up at her and said, “Could you tell me about that?” What else could I do? I was not pursuing it; it was pursuing me.
I think she saw it on my face, the resignation, the surrender.
Her response was gentle and kind. She simply invited me into her space, to come and to “just check out” the small group. If it was for me, great. If not, no worries – it’s not for everyone. And “It would be great to see you,” she said as she laid a gentle hand on my shoulder.
“Okay,” I whispered with a sigh, as much to myself and to Him as to her. My prayer was simple, “Really?”
It was difficult.
To be exposed to a world that is so hidden, so dark, so evil.
Where was the light? Where was He? How could this be?
Could I do this? Could I step into a place where shadows and reflections intertwined so deeply with my own story? My body just ached to turn away.
No. No. No. I can’t. I can’t do this. “I just can’t,” I cried softly to my Father.
At church, the small group showed the movie, Nefarious: Merchant of Souls. Several scenes and several words remain with me, but the one that has branded itself to my heart was the picture of the tiny pajamas worn by a little girl after she had been visited by a John.
I could no longer run. I could no longer hide. I could no longer look away.
I was enraged. I felt compelled, the need to do something welled up from deep within me.
And I could hear, feel the whispers of doubt and of fear rise up as well. Would this consume me? Would I be overwhelmed? How could I possibly go into such a place?
Then something happened. My heart became still. His Spirit moved in. A space opened up deep within me. And I heard Him say, “Yes. You will. You will be overwhelmed. Yes. You will. You will be consumed. You will be changed forever. And you are not alone. I am here. And there are others. Will you come?”
My heart had softened. My soul was weeping, not for me, but for them, for each of the little girls trapped and used, alone and discarded. I heard His call, His invitation.
I said yes.
See those lines in the sand? Those lines are my heal marks as I was dragged, slowly and tenderly into a place where I thought I would drown, be overwhelmed, become completely undone. Those lines in the sand remind me that I am not alone, there is One greater than I. And in truth, those lines are not about me. They never were.
I am curious: Have you been hearing His invitation, too?
Erin O’Connor’s favorite name to be called is “Grandma,” and she enjoys making crafts with her granddaughter. Erin also has two grown children, lives in a suburb of Chicago, and is a professional counselor. She enjoys mentoring others, reading, writing, and seeing God’s handiwork in nature. Erin is a contributing author of several devotionals published in Quiet Reflections of Hope. Erin has begun her journey of experiencing kindness from God, with others, and for herself.