We say there are exceptions. Not everything is black and white. Lest they write themselves out of the picture, assume they are invincible, we tell them there are exceptions.
Except there rarely are, exceptions.
Another story came to me, labored and pained, the same threads woven throughout. He spoke of isolation, loneliness, and a trusted companion who deceived and betrayed. His innocent belief in the decency of humanity became the means to coerce and exploit. Years later, he still reels from misplaced trust, fear of relationships, and the risk of intimacy.
His story mirrors the others. Those who have been exploited- by traffickers, cult leaders, con-artists, and the like- were often plucked from a vacuous community: absent parents, frayed friendships, extended truancy that led to invisibility, repeat runaways whose names were replaced with labels, purposeful isolation and psychological manipulation.
There are rarely exceptions.
In the absence of community and meaningful relationships, the enemy casually struts in and sows the lie: this is as good as it gets. This is as good as you get.
And I’m thinking lately, just wondering, have I heard this lie before? Have you?
Perhaps the very thing that makes people vulnerable to trafficking is the one thing we all share, the one thing we most long for, the one thing we were designed for: meaningful community.
Created in relationship, as a reflection of the trinity, we were designed for intimacy. If all is as it should be, we experience connection, love, lack of shame, exposure, and togetherness. I have known this, tasted this. The transparency in friendships, the gift of being known despite all my flaws, and the beauty of being “in” it together is holy.
But when all is not as it should be, when sin has reaped destruction, we know brokenness, lack of connection, shame, and hiding. Idol making is not far, for we quickly look for that which will provide intimacy, connection, and love. And our enemy lurks nearby. His core aim is to destroy intimacy and establish idols.
I have known this too, tasted this too.
When I lack deep connection to others, bitterness festers. I tend to focus on every flaw, replay every conversation to find the fault and drive the wedge deeper. Why does that feel better than drawing close again? I replace intimacy with live humans with those from Netflix. Actors become my companions. My idol, or rather that which promises to fulfill me, hides behind a screen. I have come to believe, this is as good as it gets.
Our enemy may be cunning, but he is not so original. If we come to recognize the lie which has ensnared us may be the same lie that ensnares victims of trafficking, then we can rejoice. The solution is not far! The way to eradicate this global human rights crisis is not unknown, not elusive. It has been within reach all along.
Destroy intimacy and establish idols. Make us believe this is as good as it gets, this is as good as we get.
Our response then is to restore connection. Repair broken intimacy.
What is broken in relationship is healed in relationship. There are rarely exceptions.
Beth Bruno is founder and director of A Face to Reframe, a non-profit committed to preventing human trafficking through arts, training, and community building. She writes about women in ministry, girls becoming women, and exploited women. Her writing has appeared at Relevant, Today’s Christian Woman, InterVarsity’s The Well, and she is a proud member of Redbud Writer’s Guild. She can be found in the mountains of Colorado with her husband and 3 kids or at www.bethbruno.org.