It’s closing in on one year since I started working with the International Institute of Los Angeles (IILA) on collaborative anti-human trafficking efforts. As with any anniversary in my life, it’s been a period of conscious and subconscious reflection.
This journey started long before a year ago though. In many ways, this is a culmination of many events, but particularly of my experiences in seminary where I first learned about the issue of human trafficking. One of the pivotal moments in that experience was the ASHA Forum hosted at Fuller in 2009. It was an intense weekend where anti-human trafficking stakeholders came together and the event could not have been described as anything less than a “holy encounter with the things that break the heart of God.” William Wilberforce’s words lingered with me after that, “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”
The years (2009-2013) following that experience were intermittent with the struggle of trying to claw myself towards feeling like I was making an significant contribution to anti-human trafficking efforts. It included, but was not limited to, quitting two different positions in order to inch myself closer to the social justice world. There were more than a few broke days, lots of tears, a whole lot of prayer, and even more wondering if I was completely out of my mind, crazy.
Once May 2013 rolled around, I was beginning to feel like I knew what my role was in the movement and how I could be of service to the community. The skies seems to clear and there was a bit of reprieve, but the climb continued. The task of advocating for the creation of my role at IILA to fundraising to figuring out partners for our collaborative efforts was more than I had thought to consider. So, all of those prayers where I cried out to God asking that He use me left me wondering, “What did I ask for?!” I know that if you’ve prayed that same prayer, you’ve asked the same thing. Haha!
It hasn’t been all bad though, just long-suffering. Social justice is a long-suffering kind of love, not a hit-it-and-quit-it kind of love. A labor of love.
I’ve also had the incredible opportunity to talk about human trafficking to practically everyone I know. Whether it be on an online radio show, a Google+ hangout, a webinar, or over coffee with a friend, I like to talk and people seem to like to listen. Blows my mind. It’s a privilege, really it is.
And yet, I couldn’t seem to shake the discouragement off of my boots the past couple of weeks. Things were accelerating at my other job taking my attention from the anti-human trafficking work that I am passionate about. At the same time, the doors seemed to be closing around our anti-human trafficking collaborative efforts. Have you ever ran full-steam into a wall? Well, let me tell you, it hurts. Do that a couple of times and it will leave you feeling a little disoriented, ha.
I went on vacation, started a gratitude journal, and veraciously read two books about Jesus. Church, I was feeling desperate.
One of the books I read recently, Jesus is Better than You Imagined, really struck a chord with me in this season of life. All of the striving of the past year and it didn’t seem (to me, anyway) that I had accomplished much. What accounting could I give God for the last year? Had I not tried hard enough? Pushed hard enough? Fought hard enough? Was I even in the right place? Was I really cut out for anti-human trafficking work?
Reading Jonathan Merritt’s words about a similar season in his life gave me the first exhale that I’d had in a long time:
“For three years after I felt God’s call on my life, it seemed like every newspaper, magazine, and book publisher in America rejected me. I questioned whether I’d really understood what God was trying to say to me. Or perhaps, I reasoned, it wasn’t God’s voice at all. Maybe it was all in my head. The most difficult step in meeting God in the impossible is believing He’ll show up there.” (69, 70).
I know the feeling…
“I grow weary in waiting because I think every wait is a waste. I’m wasting time, wasting energy, or wasting my day when I could be doing something more productive. Perhaps, God sees these periods differently than I do. Maybe these times in life when I think I’m waiting, God is working. He’s forming me, shaping me, preparing me for the destiny He’s marked out for me.” (104)
Oh, yes and amen! The places that God has called me to walk are not easy places. The places where God has called you to walk are not easy places either. When I really step back and take a minute to think about it, there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with the leadership involved with what I do. There’s a lot of character that’s involved too. And it’s only in a spirit of reflection that I can see that we (aka me with a lot of God’s help) have come a long way, but we’ve still got a long way to go on this lifelong journey towards justice and peace.
Woo. I’m preaching really good to the choir now! Hang in there, freedom fighters. God’s got us. The battle is the Lord’s and we’re just joining in the march towards freedom. It’s liberating when we look at it like this. As cliché as this sounds, sometimes we really need to “let go and let God.”
You know what the best part of it is? Jonathan was right. God works on our behalf and even when things seemed like a standstill with my (our) work, God managed to breathe new life into the project. I’ll have to share more details as things begin to unfold, but I can tell you this right now: I am really excited for the ways that God is on the move. I am very much looking forward to the day when we can join together in saying, “Free at last. Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” Because that day is coming. That glorious day is coming.
As always, much love, fellow freedom fighters. Much love.