Silent Screams

(Fair warning: contains some potentially disturbing content.)

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I suspect that humans believe that they are invincible. Not all of us, of course, and not all the time. But tell me true: if you would learn tonight that you only have a week left in this life, would you not be shocked? Maybe it’s a side effect of being created immortal beings. Maybe we believe we’re going to live forever because we are.

Or maybe we’re just lazy. Remembering that you are going to die is not comfortable. If your every act might be your last, suddenly everything you do is charged with significance. And if your body is mortal, you’re breakable and the things you do have consequences. You can only eat so much junk food or think so many negative thoughts before you lose your health and your joy.

Worse still is living aware that everyone around you is breakable – and breaking. If you love them, you don’t want to lose them or to see them ache. Even if you don’t love them, you have to be either amazingly naïve or deliberately cruel, if you know that others are prone to pain and you still do not do your best, not only to minimize the damage you inflict, but also to relieve the suffering that is already being endured.

But that is the point, I think. Most of us are really too kind at heart to see suffering without wanting to set it right, and because there is so much pain around us that we cannot heal, we choose not to see it rather than aching helplessly with them. But. Ignoring suffering does not make it cease to exist. And our comfortable, callused blindness can keep us from finding ways in which we may help, even when we cannot heal.

Some time ago there was a pain put in my mind and on my heart. It’s caused by an evil that makes me feel sick to think on, but I dare not put it out of my thoughts and forget it. Those who suffer from it cannot.

Do you know that right now in this world there are over 4.5 million children who are being held and traded as modern-day slaves for sex? 4.5 million. CHILDREN. The average age for prostitutes is 12 years old, and it is getting lower. Closer home: last year, over 2,500 cases involving trafficked children were reported in the United States alone. 2,500 were reported, but most are never even discovered.

This is what I cannot forget: right now, while I sit safe in my house, there is a little girl with big eyes and soft hair being held down and cruelly penetrated by a grown man…twice her size, twice her strength…and she knows that he paid money for the pleasure of raping her. He did not pay her, of course. He paid her owner. Maybe she’s screaming in anguish as she breaks. Or maybe she isn’t. Maybe her eyes are glassy and vacant, her face slack. Maybe she’s too scarred or too drugged to even feel herself shattering for the 10th time today, to hear him panting on top of her.

Did reading that make you feel uncomfortable? I could say I’m sorry. I certainly understand; writing it, picturing it, makes me feel uncomfortable to the point of nausea.

Imagine what living it is doing to her.

I want you to take a moment to picture your 12-year-old daughter…your 10-year-old niece…your 14-year-old sister. Really picture them. The petal-soft velvet of their cheeks. The curl of their hair. The shine in their eyes and the freckles on their nose. The way their cheek dimples when they grin and how they giggle and chatter too much sometimes. My husband has an 11-year-old sister whose hair is Asian-black and whose eyes actually gleam with life. She’s constantly doing impressions, she loves to tease, and she’s generally either listening to music or teaching herself how to play it. She gives amazing massages and she’s super competitive in any game she plays. When I picture her in my mind, she’s smiling. She smiles a lot. She laughs a lot.

Now I want us to realize that these girls who are being bought and sold for the twisted pleasures of evil, they are just as precious and beautiful as the girls we love, and once they were just as soft and innocent. This violation of body and soul is happening to somebody’s daughter, niece, sister…and it is only by the grace of God that it is not happening to yours. Or maybe it is. I can’t know.

And what about the boys? What if, instead being rowdy, full of strong life and fight and fierce joy, your son or brother was growing up voiceless, with shoulders always hunched and eyes that ran from anyone who tried to see him? What if it was your son or brother who flinches from every touch and whose nightmares do not end when he wakes?

So what is my point? Why am I dragging your minds through this? Because I believe there is a way we can help, if only we will see it. And I am asking you to see it, I am asking you to help; not for my sake, but for the sake of the girls and boys that you love, for the sake of the girls and boys who never deserved to be broken and violated in this way, and for the sake of life and light. It only costs an average of $14 a day to provide these shattered souls with shelter, food, clothing, abuse counseling, and an education.

In the end, no matter what I say or how I ask, I think there will only be 3 kinds of people.

Type 1 will shake their heads and say that they don’t believe it’s really like that, that I’m exaggerating, that it’s a scam, that they don’t have enough money, that they’ll give another time, that their circumstance is special and therefore they are none of these types – whatever excuse that allows them to slam their eyes shut, hide inside themselves, stay comfortable. They may even pray, à la James 2:16. Whatever they need to quiet the silent screams. If this is you, I thank God that you have suffered so little that you can ignore the desperate pain of others…and then I pray that He opens your eyes.

Type 2 will be strong enough to rise above all the excuses. They will click here and they will give out of a heart that truly wants to help. And then they will feel justified in returning to their comfortable lives and forgetting – because they can, because it is more painful to remember. If this is you, I bless you for what you give. You may have changed the entire world for one of His darlings.

Type 3, like Type 2, will be stronger than their excuses. They will click here and give, too, give now because for the 12-year-old girl suffocating under the weight of a grown man, later is an eternity away. They hear the silent screams and their heart is not so blind and weak that it cannot bleed. And they will not stop there. They will not forget, because our Father does not forget. They will find more ways to help, whether it is committing to giving again and again on a regular basis, or inspiring their family and friends to help too, or going even beyond and getting out into the trenches themselves. If this is you, I thank God for you and for the love He has given you. You are the one who gives me hope, you are the one I asked God for, and you are the one for whom I wrote this blog post.

And now, guess what. No matter which type you choose to be, we are all still breakable. There is still more suffering around us than we can bear to see. But I believe that our acts do matter, do make a difference, whether they turn out to be our last or not. So now it’s up to you. What kind of person are you? Will you turn away your eyes and stay inside of yourself? Or will you join hands with other warriors of light, become part of something bigger and beyond yourself, and strike another blow for life?

sad girl

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Of Death and Beauty

Right now there is on my dining room table an arrangement of cut flowers in a clear glass vase. The vivid colors are an enthusiastic mix of purple and magenta, green, yellow, and salmon. I smile to see it, partly because it arrived with a card reading

which made me feel very loved, and partly because the vibrant hues invariably make me think of certain of my friends who are like that: colorful, vivacious, eye-catching, intense, full of life. People like that always frighten me a little, but once they are my friends I love them for all the ways they are not like me. Created for life as we are, it is not hard to find beauty in the vibrancy of it.

Strewn across my coffee table are eleven white roses. They were part of a bouquet given to me by a florist friend: a lovely blue and white arrangement, remnant of a summer wedding. They are fading, glossy leaves stiffening into dullness, velvet petals hardening in brittle death. And they are beautiful. There is no struggle here, no rage against the dying of the light. Only graceful surrender to time as they become a fragile memory – yesterday’s flowers. I love them better every day they die, and I marvel at the desolate loveliness that death and ending can hold.

On my living room wall hangs another flower arrangement. Its colors have long faded into muted tones: parchment yellows, dusty mauves, blackened wines, greens pale and cold. Nearly nine months past, it was my bridesmaid’s bouquet at the wedding that turned my friend into my sister-in-law. It was beautiful then, but now that it is dead and faded and fragile, I think I love it more. Beauty in life is easy to see and appreciate, but beauty in death – that is a rare gift.

Several weeks past I had a conversation with a friend on death – specifically, if death ever comes from God, or if it is solely a weapon of the Enemy which he is allowed to wield at God’s discretion. We did not entirely agree – but then, I don’t entirely agree with most people’s view on death. There is one man I do agree with, I think:

Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind. – C.S. Lewis

This life is not big enough and this world is too lonely for me to feel that death is the greatest tragedy we must face here. But then again, I suspect I may not really be qualified to have a fixed opinion on death. I have, after all, never died.