You know the feeling.
You feel compassion rising up, and you’re caught.
You can’t unfeel something.
You can’t unsee injustice…
You can’t rub away the blackness. The empathy. The dark realisation…
During my lunch-time at work I walk around the streets of Sydney’s Surry Hills. It’s a hub for brothels, and my heart breaks when I see the conveniently hidden, cloistered, unnamed entryways. I imagine the re-named women, the furtive men. The girls who convince themselves it’s just ‘work’. The workers who, on some level, want to get out… but feel they have no choice.
In Psychotherapy with Women Who Have Worked in the “Sex Industry”, Ariz Anklesaria writes: “Women involved in the adult sex industry who’ve experienced trauma often feel shattered and hopeless. Some escape the lifestyle, yet with limited resources many find themselves ‘trapped’ in the business. Many have been attacked, exploited, and humiliated, and mind-altering substances often are sought to temporarily mollify the physical and emotional pain. The most prevalent mental health symptoms are in the mood and anxiety spectrums, but are often coupled with addiction to substances. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is widespread in this subset of the population and usually is attributed to childhood abuse and/or sex industry-related trauma.”
Up the hill, I slip past the same woman every day, unsure whether she’s one of the re-named women or not. And I wonder whether to say hello. What difference would it make? Her eyes are shuttered. She looks blank, cut-off. Will I ever gather the courage? Will she ever realise that she’s seen? Prayed for? Loved… despite her anonymity?
I walk and I pray and I walk and I pray and I feel utterly, distinctly helpless…
I know praying does things, and one day God might turn my compassion into courageous action. But I feel uncomfortable in the blurry in-between. In the excuse period. In those moments of guilt and unrest and conviction, so easily erased by time and distraction.
I’m frustrated by the ‘us and them’ mentalities we perpetuate. The hypocrisy of saying and thinking I care, but remaining dormant. Will my short life be whittled down to a series of best intentions?
And so I hand God the emotions, the visuals in my head, the questions and the shame – mine and theirs.
And I ask him to give me his wisdom, show me his heart.
His dreams for the lost and the found, the broken and the half-mended.
The willing and the wanting.
Lord, so often we feel like there’s nothing substantial we can do. But we know we trust in a God who cares, and is able to save. We pray that your Holy Spirit would set free those in captivity. That you would give those in darkness a hunger for the light. And that your light would come to earth through us.