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Sometimes it is difficult for me to get to a place of relation. Really difficult. In this case, it has nothing to do with the positive. I do not struggle to relate to Bishop T.D. Jakes because of his powerful preaching or his obvious business prowess. All those things are inside of me too (yet in development still). It is more humbling than that.

It is hard for me to relate to him as a fallen sinner in need of Jesus.

Not because I don’t see him as one, but today I somehow forgot how sinful I can be. As far along in my journey as I have come, I still have much ground to cover. So does Bishop Jakes. We all do, which is why the Lord’s mercy is new every morning. We have new need of it every morning. My bout of pride, mixed with a little fervor for the holiness of the church, made for an interesting sequence of events.

I greatly admire Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation church. Last night I watched a live broadcast of his conversation with Bishop T.D. Jakes. There was some useful wisdom in there of what I could catch between running up and down stairs trying to put my daughter to bed (that child never sleeps!), and I was taking in all that I could.

I’ve never favored Bishop Jakes per se, but he’s got a lot of knowledge in some areas that I do not, so I listened carefully. My open-mindedness came to a screeching halt as I watched the end of the broadcast, when The Bishop led the congregation in singing “I Beleieve I Can Fly” by R Kelly.

I immediately set about formulating how to best make people hear that this is not ok. I thought of all the pictures from social media recently of church members marching against human trafficking for the A-21 Foundation. And here these two greats in the church are singing songs written by a child molesting, abusive misogynist who is currently under investigation for, guess what? Sex trafficking.

Talk about fire in my bones!

I could feel it welling up from the deepest parts of me and I had zero qualms about telling the world what had just happened. In a single zealous moment, I turned from a woman passionate about grace to a woman passionate about justice… forgetting that the two work hand-in-hand in the Kingdom of God.

I forgot that my God is already aware and working on this problem in the church. And I took to my soapbox to fill in for what I thought He wasn’t doing fast enough.

I started slamming Bishop Jakes on social media (not realizing this is what I was doing at the time because, well… righteous indignation, right?). Soon after, a friend confronted me publicly with her disapproval of what I was doing. I didn’t care. I was right.

The funny thing about being right is that, absent grace… we cease to be right.

Justification of my own righteous anger ends at the place where it turns to love, and declares, “I got this. I no longer need you.” It ends at the place where I start demonizing people in order to assign blame, which is only for my selfish desire of wanting the problem to be solved faster.

People turn to problems when grace departs from judgement, and no amount of me being “right” would ever justify dehumanizing anyone.

I know this in the pit of me and yet, being still a sinner on even my best day, I am prone to wander from truth. If I don’t intentionally remind myself that Bishop Jakes is not only a leader, but also a human being who makes mistakes and sins just like me, just like the rest of us, I can become a great tool of division against the very church I love so much.

I believe we are at a turning point in the church where grace is replacing judgement in our outreach to the world. Thank the Lord!

Lets not stop there. Let’s extend our leaders that same attitude of grace they have been praying for us to have for so long. I’m not saying they are always right, that’s why they need grace too. But I am saying that God will judge them in a way appropriate for what they have been entrusted with and we cannot assume the role of judge and remain graceful. By all means, speak out against injustice. But don’t do what I did today and stoop to throwing your brother or sister in Christ under the bus because of pride or impatience.

In the presence of the Lord we all fall short. We become Christians because we know this, and we know that grace is the solution. Not judgement.

Its not the end of the world because one of my favorite preachers did something I don’t agree with. It’s not even my job to argue that there might be some sinning mixed into this situation. I’m not in that room. Maybe someday I will be blessed with the opportunity to influence some of our promenant leaders. Today, I have you all.

That is not a lesser thing to me.

So now I ask forgiveness for failing to lead you well today. I ask you to stay with me. I might stumble but I still know where I’m going. I can only pray that, should I ever have such a great platform and responsibility as T.D. Jakes or Steven Furtick, you all will remember this moment and continue to extend me the same grace when I fall… as I hope you do now.

Grace to all of you. Thank you once again for being a part of my journey and letting me be a part of yours.

Your sister,

Monica

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I’ve got a good bit to share in light of Hugh Hefner’s passing, but it is not to honor him. I didn’t know the guy personally so I don’t have anything sweet to say. If I had, I would absolutely share it. Still, whatever nice things there might have been about him, it would in no way change the fact that he lived a life full of a whole lot of other stuff that we should not be glamorizing, at least as Christians. (see X Doesn’t Mark the Spot ). I’m not likely going to change anyone’s hard nosed opinion about him by writing this, but if it gets to the heart of a few, then maybe the world will be a little better for my daughters.

I met lots of guys similar to Hugh in my line of work. When I worked in Crystal City, I met men who paid the club owners to take myself and other strippers out on their yacht for the day. I was young. I had no idea that once we got out on the water, there were going to be things going on that I did not want to take part in. The women who were with me were glad to do it. They didn’t see anything wrong with using their bodies, which had been abused and used against them in the past, to generate a little income and spend time in the lap of luxury for a few hours.

That didn’t change the fact that we were rented out for the day.

The other women knew the drill. They had done this many times. They assumed I would be down. I wasn’t. After processing the shock of what was happening, I found my way down to the front of the boat. I stayed there, laying in the sun, until the trip was over. I couldn’t wait to get back so I could pop a few E pills and forget it all. Only a few short years later, I would be doing the same things, almost to a T. I never considered it prostitution because I was “dating” the men it happened with. Men who were older than my father. I didn’t consider it sex trafficking or extortion when my ex encouraged me to start stripping in the first place so he could live off what I made. But it was.

That guy would sell me for a double whopper meal at Burger King.

For years I let this go on because “he loved me”. He and all the other men who used my sexuality to influence their bottom line, either socially or financially (make no mistake that the two are tied closely together), were never in it for me. They were in it for themselves. It was during my time working at 1320 Club II in Springfield, VA that I began to see what it really looked like for people to care about me. When my ex came home from jail and whooped up on me one day during a 12 hour hostage situation I endured, the only person willing to tell me the truth was my boss at the strip club.

He saw the marks around my neck and called me into his office. “You’ll go back. They always do.”

Our meeting ended abruptly as I watched him try to hide the pain in his eyes and I was left with the decision of becoming another statistic or not. I already was in so many ways…

My father had left when I was young and was awful to me when he was around

My home was alcoholic and abusive

We were poor (like living in motels poor)

I was a teen mother

The list goes on. I decided “no more”. No more going home to a man who was trying to build an empire on the backs of women like me. No more laughing it off as he idolized guys like Hugh Heffner and suggested I go get him more women to make money. No more treating myself like an expendable piece of sex and thereby opening the door for all these “men” to do it as well. No more sleeping with celebrities and soothing my conscious with the Benjamin’s and the fact that they were famous and “nice” to me.

Of course they are supposed to be nice! I’m a human being! In the words of Chris Rock, “You want a cookie?!” Quit patting guys on the back for actually taking care of children and the powerful women who bring them into this world! And if you think I’m being too passionate about this, take a walk in my shoes for a moment…

A moment where you find Christ and your world changes.

A moment when you realize that you don’t have to serve any human being, including and especially yourself, to be loved. That you already ARE loved by the Creator of the universe and that He gave his life for you instead of trying to take yours like the world does.

But then you speak your testimony in a church and realize its not much different than the world…

The pastor of the trendy startup church plant brings you onstage to share your struggle and you think you are getting to honor Jesus. But he really invited you there because recovery from the sex industry is the sexy, idolized topic of the month. His secretary jokes calling you “his stripper” in front of the entire congregation. They laugh.. they have a moment of poverty porn born out of viewing you as a victim instead of a sister in Christ. You share nevertheless but leave asking for nothing.

Attending seminary, you later reach out to that church for financial support for school. They kick you a quick couple bucks for a “speaking fee” (that they were not willing to give until asked), but offer nothing more. Your home church is the opposite, encouraging women and treating them rightly as equals in the ministry, but you soon find that this is not the norm of church culture.

But Hugh Hefner is not the problem. We are.

The story of his life is just the jumping off point for a really important discussion we need to have within the church. To acknowledge that, as the church, we need to make more progress in the area of speaking against misogyny. On a whole, we still look way too much like the world. We’re out here watching pastors say stupid things like “make it rain”, when that came from throwing dollars up in the air over a stripper and then watching her have to crawl around to pick it up. Playing hip hop at our events that promote that lifestyle. We are so out of touch with the world we have become just like it and don’t even know it. Time to draw a line in the sand, especially on how we treat our women and children.

And brothers… I’M PUTTTING THIS IS ON YOU. Just like white people need to speak out against racism, our brothers in Christ need to speak out against misogyny.

Please? They won’t listen to us… we’re just women.

Your sister,

Monica