Living your day to day in the midst of the dark circumstances of a red light district, you tend to forget the heaviness of it all until you leave for a few days and realize how much lighter you feel.
I was in Laos for a couple of days renewing my Visa and as I took the time reflect, refocus, and breath, I couldn’t help but notice how much less heavy the whole atmosphere felt. Don’t get me wrong, I love where I live. I love that I get to be a part of a growing light in such a dark place, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say there wasn’t a heaviness to seeing such brokenness everyday.
The hope of Christ keeps me from giving in to the despair of it all. But to see such brokenness, to see such suffering, the heaviness tends to creep up on you from time to time as you are faced with the staggering question… Why?
We recently had a “visitor” in our little outreach house. We found him on the street dancing, dressed up in women’s clothes. He was 13 years old, all by himself with a shopping bag full of his belongings, rain pouring down. One of our teammates asked him who he was and what he was doing. No place to go, he told us, I need to make money to live. We had been doing outreach on that street long enough to know what that meant… he was selling his body.
It’s hard to get your head around a thing like this at first. What happened to this little boy that, a) he was out on the streets alone, b) he was dressed up as a woman and somehow believed he was one; and c) he was in a place where he felt he needed to sell his body to live. The darkness of that situation ran so deep I felt like I was walking around in a perplexed haze for days after our part in his life.
So we took him in. How could we let him stay on the streets, or God forbid in the home of some sick man, one more night? Then over a period of days we were thrown into a whirlwind of difficult situations as we tried to figure out how to care for this clearly traumatized little boy
I remember the feeling of helplessness as we finally found him a more permanent place to live knowing that he had such a long journey ahead of him to healing. Why?… I kept thinking… how could this happen, why does he have to go through this?
The best of us, even the most spiritual of us all, have come face to face with the problem of suffering in the world desperately seeking for an answer. And of course, as followers of Christ, we must ultimately rely on the underlying trust inside of us the God knows what he is doing and he will make everything right again, and we must wait in that hope.
But it’s hard not to feel distressed that there is so much pain in suffering in the world.
While I was on this trip to Laos, I took along with me a book called “The Giver.” This is standard reading for most 8th graders now-a-days, and although I had already read this book, I couldn’t remember very much of it so I wanted to read it again. It is a story about a community of people, presumably sometime far in the future, that had figured out how to eliminate all suffering and pain of any kind. In order to obtain this, however, the community needed to be rid of any kind of deep emotion, because as they found out long ago, emotions, if not kept in check could cause exactly the type of pain they were trying to avoid. No strong attachments were allowed, everything was in pleasant order, no one ever got significantly hurt, but they had nurtured out love. They had been living this way for so long, no one even knew what love was. Only one person knew, the Receiver. The Receiver was the one who held all the memories of the past. Every hurt, every war, every epidemic, all the pains the world had ever gone though, he possessed inside of him. He held the burden of these memories so no one else would have to but also so that he could guide the leaders of the community to make decisions to avoid any reoccurrences of these hurts. What the receiver also held, however, was every memory of love… every Christmas, every wedding, every song, every painting, every hand in hand walk on the beach, all things these people no longer experienced. Yet he couldn’t keep these memories forever, as he got older, he needed to impart them to someone new. He became the Giver and a 12 year old boy became the new Receiver. Suddenly this boy was brought face to face with pain beyond anything he had ever felt or imagined, as he received these memories his whole world changed and he began to understand exactly why they made decisions to live this way. But with the memories of pain, he was also given the memories of love… which brings us to the most beautiful part of this whole story. Once he came to know the great experience of actual love, all of the pain seemed worth it. He no longer wanted to live in a world without love, even if it meant no suffering. He decided in the midst of all those memories of pain that it was all worth it, if it meant the reemergence of real love.
You cannot experience authentic love without risking great pain. And how can one ever see the true greatness of sacrificial love without the existence of need in the world? Somehow, great pain and great love go hand in hand. And although in some ways that may seem incredibly unfair in the cosmic sense of things, Love is worth it. And as we know from the great love letter that God sent to us, Love wins. It always wins. And at the end of time as we know it, Love will win again, once and for all.