Initially when I was asked to be the lead for the Cultivate Dressember campaign I felt so honored. To say that I am passionate about this topic would be an understatement, but as I began digging into statistics, watching documentaries, listening to testimonies, and really immersing myself in all things human trafficking I could feel an internal friction take place. Suddenly that initial feeling of honor became entangled with odd familiarities and a strange resistance. Learning the truth about a lot of this is hard enough, but watching videos that trigger your own personal memories takes it to a whole other level. So, as I began preparing for the launch of the campaign, I personally had to sit with God for a while and ask what He wanted me to do with all of this.
I remember being 15 years old and being afraid of the dark, so afraid that I would climb into bed with my little sister at night… I felt safer there with her. I would put myself between her and the wall, and then I would pray for the morning to come. The night time had come to represent everything awful about my new reality. Dark car rides that made me want to die, dark parking lots that I’ll never forget, dark living rooms where I prayed to God to change my life and simultaneously felt like He had completely forgotten about me.
I am a survivor of sexual abuse.
When I sit here, with my story written all over my body, and I read the accounts of these other women who are being trafficked, beaten, raped, imprisoned, and things that I just cannot comprehend, I find myself broken. You see…I know my own pain from the sexual abuse I’ve experienced. I know all of my stories. I live with my memories, and yet I have to say so much of what I have gone through feels tiny and small and almost unimportant in comparison to the research I was doing. This feels silly to me as I see myself writing it, but is such an accurate description of the wrestling my heart does over this subject. I find myself in this really odd place of feeling disabled to fight for them because my own junk is so heavy, and at the same time being fueled by my pain to never give up on them.
In various seasons in my life, and especially over the last few months, I feel the words of Isaiah 61:1 carved into the cracks of my heart:
“The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners”
I am a woman who has lived in bondage and slavery to the lies that have been spoken over me and the abuse that has been done to me. This is true, this is my story on many levels, but it’s not my whole story… and it will not be the END of my story. I am a daughter of the King, first and foremost, who has been rescued by redemption and grace. I am a woman who, in my darkest seasons~ in my most painful and unflattering moments, has been blessed by the will of those who intentionally choose to fight for ME. My life has been forever changed by the handful of people who entered into my brokenness with me, fought for the freedom of my soul when I was too weak to fight, and advocated for the truth of my worth when I had lost hope. The course of my life is completely altered and forever different than it would have been because of those who were willing to get uncomfortable and messy for the sake of rescuing and redeeming all that was stolen from me.
This verse in Isaiah tells me that, my own abuse aside, as a child of God I am specifically called to not ignore the injustice and slavery that surrounds me. As I think of all the people who have been uncomfortable for my redemption’s sake, I must ask myself “how are those in captivity not worth the same level of discomfort and risk that I received? Are their lives not as important as mine?” Yes, I have had awful things happen to me, but I have also seen God use others as His hands and feet in my life to breathe a new song into me. And what an absolute honor it is to now be in a position where all of my messy can be used by God to breathe hope into other women who are running out of air. Friends, our hearts SHOULD be broken over this, our souls SHOULD be called to action. Doing nothing is no longer acceptable.
Wearing a dress every day hardly feels like anything unbearable, I get that. Initially I questioned how this would even serve it’s purpose. “Participate? Sure, I’ll participate”, but (to be real) inside a part of me thought “how will this make a difference?” Yes, I understand spreading awareness. Yes, I want to boldly fight for those in slavery, but the dress… what’s with the dress? It felt silly to me. BUT It only took wearing a dress for 3 days until I found myself totally inconvenienced by the fact that my jeans and flannel were off limits, and there it was. “Oh… this is an inconvenience for you? Have you already forgotten?”
We live in a culture that tells us to live for ourselves, to take care of us and our people first, that we “deserve” a comfortable life. But, do you know that the Bible teaches the exact opposite? Comfortable living is not a part of the gospel, nothing about “picking up your cross and dying to yourself” is comfortable; and I personally have found that my most tangible experiences with God have taken place in my greatest moments of discomfort.
Is the actual action of wearing a dress going to be what saves these women and children? No, It’s not… but it’s not meant to. The truth is, at the end of the day, the only thing that will save these women and children is God. Our wearing a dress is just a small piece of the puzzle. It’s a jagged piece of a picture that’s connected to other irregular pieces building and revealing a much bigger picture as all the pieces start coming together. Wearing the dress is our opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the lives of these women and children who are suffering in a way that most of us will never understand. It’s our opportunity to speak truth to the lie that God has forgotten them, but rather stand as examples of His unfailing love for them. We aren’t being asked to have it all figured out, and at no point are we expected to solve these awful issues all on our own. All we’re asked to do is be willing… willing to be minimally uncomfortable in an effort to help rescue other women and children from a life of bondage.
Maybe you are like me and you find yourself struggling to sort through your own messy stuff and getting close to a topic like this triggers and hurts, or maybe you find yourself feeling so far from this topic that you question whether you have a right or are intimidated by the thought of getting involved. I hear you, I hear your heart and I want to encourage you to not accept any of those thoughts as truth. All of our stories, no matter how tragic they are or how plain they might seem, serve a mighty purpose in Jesus name. My prayer is that throughout this month we can all gain personal wisdom while spreading awareness, that God would use all of our little bits to bring BIG justice for those enslaved, and that overall His name would be glorified as His daughters stand boldly for those in suffering. Never once did God forsake me, I relish in that truth for myself, and I take action so that it may be the truth of those enslaved.
Cultivate Dressember campaign Lead
“None of you should be looking out for your own interests, but for the interest of others.” 1 Corinthians 10:24