“And I just ran out of band-aids / I don’t even know where to start / ‘Cause you can bandage the damage / But you never really can fix a heart.” -Demi Lovato/Fix a Heart
It’s National Human Trafficking Day and I promise this post relates…while it may seem that we are veering off-topic for a moment, I promise, if you just keep reading, it all relates. And by the way, while we’re chatting, if you do anything for me, at least make this issue a hot-button topic that you want to hear candidates talking about. Because people are not for sale. 20,000 of them US citizens, by the way.
Sometimes, despite all of life’s annoyances, AKA dropping your driver’s license and losing it, God really just has a way of putting people in your path whose stories you simply need to hear. So yesterday, I went to a DMV in the Valley to avoid the craziness that is the Hollywood DMV. And while I did forget my checkbook and have to return to the Hollywood DMV to actually get my replacement, yesterday’s waste-of-time activity really ultimately wasn’t a waste of time.
You see, I sat down to a perfectly normal-looking eccentric woman. Yes, she was wearing a very peculiar outfit, yes her hair needed to be brushed, but she blended it with all the other eccentricities I see in Los Angeles. She noticed my new cross tattoo on my left wrist and asked me if I was a Christian. And I knew the way she asked, that this wasn’t a loaded question.
It wasn’t full of the typical, “oh you love Jesus so you must hate gay people” contempt and well-earned judgment. So I said, yes, I am, but not in the way you might assume and before I was able to become nervous, she began talking.
It was a bit like pulling teeth to find out the real root of her pain, but once I did, I knew it was one of those moments that I needed to remember for the rest of my life. Long story short, she is probably 60 years-old and somewhat mentally-disabled. She is not also not very physically mobile so she watches church on television, particularly TBN.
Well, she was watching and she interpreted the pastor/speaker/whomever was on TV to be saying that in order to be blessed by God they needed to give money to that particular network or cause. I can see how she may have misheard or misunderstood the intent, cue mild mental delays, but I can also connect-the-dots and understand how she internalized a message that is rampant in prosperity theology. So she, earnestly wanting to “be approved by God” and “needing to be blessed” completely emptied out her bank account and wrote one well-meaning check to this particular organization.
Again, I realize that there are significant problems in logic in doing so, but this woman’s heart was in the right place. She zeroed out her bank account, got evicted and became homeless. All the while believing that her money was going to good use and that God would ultimately bless her sacrifice. Since then, she has been living behind a Jack-in-the-Box fast food restaurant and sleeping on the ground. She eats refried beans and rummages through the trash for food. Again, I understand that her thinking is completely illogical and off. She has some problems. But here’s the bigger issue.
The bigger issue is that you can donate your every penny to an organization out of a sense of guilt and shame and a gut-wrenching desire to be loved by God. Not knowing that He loves you completely as is. Not understanding that God wants to be kept far away from manipulative, disgusting, deceptive marketing ploys. Not believing that if shame is involved, God isn’t. I know we have free will. We can do perfectly idiotic things like empty our bank accounts and become homeless. But the thing is, this woman has some significant mental handicaps. I wish someone on the other side of the phone, who was accepting her money, asked her if she had the money to be doing this. I wish there was a way to stop her from doing this. She’s on Disability, I really wish someone had financial conservatorship over her. I really wish people would just stop falsely advertising the earning of God’s grace to perfectly desperate people. People just longing for God and ending up down this rabbit hole called American Religious Capitalism.
My heart really ached for her. It still does. I don’t know how I can be a part of the solution. She wouldn’t accept a food handout. She wasn’t stable enough for me to feel comfortable giving her my name or phone number. She wanted to use my address to receive her mail, which just made me uneasy in my gut which I tend to listen to. I guess all I can do is pray and lend my voice to honor her story.
And I promise, this does relate to human trafficking. The sale of your body or the sale of your soul is very interrelated. What people will do out of desperation to connect to God, to connect to themselves, to feel worthy and loved. Human trafficking has personally affected me and if you looked at me from the outside, saw my teaching resume or were even decent friends with me, you would never guess that in a million years. Someday maybe I will be brave enough to tell you how I got lucky, how I listened to my gut, how it could have been me if I would have taken just another step in a particular direction. I’m going to give it time, years to heal, before I tell my story publicly. I was that close, without me even looking for it. That close to just falling in the trap that was waiting. That close and I am a savvy, college-educated, independent woman. That close to getting out of control and causing me major harm, if I made it out alive. It’s not just a problem of poor people. It’s not just a problem of “prostitutes” who “are asking for it.” It’s very real and if you don’t care about the adult women affected, think about the other 50% of victims — the children sold — little kids sold into modern-day slavery.
So, to sum this up, people are not for sale. God is also not for sale. What do you think? Lend me your thoughts! Tell me what stirs your heart, what hits you, what you resonate with, and even what you don’t…