Abuse. Trauma. Bondage. Violence. Pain. Fear.
This is the story of many who have suffered at the hands of traffickers. This is the story of many vulnerable and exploited people in the world, period.
Yet this is also the story of the Cross.
The story of the Cross is not the absence of pain or fear. We believe in a God who not only took on flesh, but bore our sins, our traumas, our violence upon His back. We surrender our hearts to a God who was “familiar with sorrows” and a friend of grief.
I think, as the Church, we can sometimes be a bit uncomfortable with this level of hurt. I know I am. How do we engage those with stories of deep pain and trauma? What does faith, hope, and love look like when time has passed and the wounds haven’t seemed to heal? What do we say to the anger, the denial, the grief?
Sometimes it’s easy to forget the message of the Cross. Sometimes we get so eager to see the healing, the restoration, we want to skip the agony of walking through the valley of Saturday. We want to skip right to Sunday–right to the Resurrection–and celebrate new life.
As I reflect on the past five days of classes, I realize how quickly I want to look towards the solution–to seek out the happy ending. Yet the process of healing requires that we set aside our own timelines and agendas, and simply commit to someone with our presence. We must take the time to really listen to their stories; to walk the long road of anger, pain, and confusion; to invite them into a safe place where they can learn to truly grieve. In every aspect of trafficking intervention, I’m learning that often the best “solutions” are not quick or easy–they require a significant investment of time, resources, and emotion.
More specifically, they require Love.
Ultimately, what gives value to our work is the fact that it’s an expression of our love.
We’re just giving back to God what He gave to us. It is our love for Him and the beautiful people he created that transforms our work into a precious gift. He is the source of true love–a love that never minimizes sin, but more importantly never lets go. A love that sets aside what is convenient for us, or fits into our idea of “success,” and looks out for the good of others.
When it comes down to it, words alone will not resolve anything. An encounter with God’s love will change a heart forever.
The biggest thing we have to offer people is simply and wonderfully this: the permanent goodness of God.
Because really? Love actually will win. Someday justice will be done fully and completely. All will be made right. Beauty, Truth, Goodness–these are the qualities that will endure throughout eternity. Those who, amidst the tragedy and pain of our world, have chosen to believe God is, and he is still good–they will enjoy his goodness and beauty forever.
This is why we can walk through the grief of Saturdays.
This is what spurs us onward.
Over the cold pavement, a single flower bends near–whispering of the Resurrection to come.