Fairytale Endings or Messy Beginnings?

This isn’t one of those “feel good” posts that will be written up in a Sunday bulletin for mission moment of the month. This post is an honest reflection and struggle with the tension between our culture’s need for “happily ever after” and the reality of the pain and brokenness that needs to be addressed. My post about the African woman who was murdered didn’t get very much response. It’s not that people don’t care. I know people care. I know some are responding through prayer. Some don’t know how to respond and so say nothing. Some have compassion fatigue and just cannot invest emotional energy in another sad story. Some just don’t think it is relevant to their lives. Some prefer to be shielded from the harsh realities of life. One time when I was speaking to a visiting group, I was sharing the reality of the sex trade and its damage to the women. A visitor interrupted me and asked, “Can you share a good story?” The pain I was sharing was uncomfortable. She wanted the good news. People love the nicely wrapped story with “and they lived happily forever after.” But the real, messy, ugly, painful, complex, and not yet resolved stories of life are hard to bear.

It’s tempting some times. It’s tempting to say what people want to hear, to tickle their fancy and just give the happy “success” stories. It’s tempting to share only the stories that are already cleaned up. Then we’ll get “likes” on Facebook, mentions on Twitter, and recognition in organizational newsletters and annual reports.

There is good news. God is working and lives are being transformed but to only share the highlights and highpoints is releasing you from fully participating in what God is doing. God wants us involved where there is pain, where it is messy, where it isn’t all wrapped up with a bow of success. God exposes the darkness and he wants us to see the need and to respond. The journey of involvement in these life stories will not fit in 140 characters on Twitter or a brief news segment. It won’t be a reality TV show and it’s not likely to fit in a post shared on social media.

Honestly, not many like to fundraise. We all get weary of trying to come up with creative methods to get attention and solicit support. Some even stoop to pimping the intimate secrets of those we help in order to compete for funding. We deal with the harsh realities day after day and when a post about an apple cider diet gets way more likes and shares than our stories of real life we take it personally on behalf of the voiceless. We join social media and discover that silly clips, bits of gossip, cooking tips, and photos of cute pets are far more popular. People share what they are eating, where they are shopping, and how well they are doing in Facebook games. Of course there are also some wonderful stories of over comers and great connections between friends and family. But, the stories of people whose lives are still really messy and continually need assistance are not as readily shared. The murder of the African woman didn’t even make the news here. We had to hear it on the street.

I read recently that there are 700 million people in the world at risk of dying from obesity and 200 million at risk of dying from starvation. I’m told there is not enough money to invest in saving and restoring lives, but we have storehouses of possessions collecting dust and growing credit card debt over often insignificant and unnecessary purchases. I know because I too am guilty of careless spending while saying I can’t afford to give to a worthy cause. Somehow it feels like we are buying into a lie about where our value lies and the significance we have in making an impact. We’ve too often believed the lies that we can do nothing and life is really only about taking care of ourselves and our loved ones. We just want to survive our own messes. But if the statistics are right we are largely at risk of dying from self-absorption and self-indulgence.

I realize of course, and am grateful that there are many people who are already giving sacrificially. We have received so much and we wouldn’t have made it this far without the generous support. The point isn’t for those who are already giving to be stretched too thin. My goal is not to inflict guilt or to offend. Rather, I want to extend you an invitation to join us on the messy journey where light confronts the darkness. Part of surviving our own messes is beginning to join others in theirs. Community is messy and hard but engaging in community brings life. It’s hard, frustrating, challenging but in the middle of it we find joy and discover God’s heart. So if you haven’t yet, I encourage you to choose a cause, get involved, and risk the pain and the disappointments. Make a commitment to support long term through the highs and lows and make an impact. You have one life and one voice to share. Use it well and be intentional about it. We would love to have you join us on the messy journey of bringing life and restoration to women and children who are survivors of sexual exploitation. If you do, you will discover there is joy and beauty even in the mess.

Www.nightlightinternational.com

3 comments

  1. Stephanie Cook · · Reply

    Annie,
    I was able to work with you and your team back in Feb. 2012. I did a few bar outreaches with you, and the things I saw were so shocking to the senses; you can hear hundreds of people talk about it and you can educate yourself as much as possible, but it can never truly prepare your heart. Even then, I knew what I experienced only scratched the surface. Thank you for writing about the good and the bad. Thank you for reminding me of the horrors that are happening outside of my personal reality. Thank you for bringing me back to that bar, even if only in my mind. Thank you for not letting me forget.

  2. Hillary · · Reply

    Thank you for this honest post, Annie! It really made me reflect on what I’ve been focusing my attentions on since being back from Africa (Harvest School 17). Self-absorption and self-indulgence are sneaky and insidious…I do not want to be known for either of those. Thank you again.

  3. Thank you so much for posting this. It drives me up the wall that I can get 15 women to show up for Wine Night and only 2 will come to talk about starving children. I follow blogs like yours to continually remind myself of all the need in the world. The minute I have an ounce of self-pity or a selfish moment, I need to remind myself that some people have real problems! I want to be a long-term, committed fighter against trafficking. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your blog!

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