I was in a city last week that does nothing to hide the ways that they are.
There are card tables and slot machines everywhere you turn. There are stands begging you to be intoxicated by the sheer size of the glass. There are trucks that drive the streets back and forth, back and forth, with the sole purpose of advertising the women that will show up at your door and do whatever it is you want them to, should you just call this number. There are grandmothers handing out trading cards for just the same thing on nearly every corner. You know them by the click of their cards. A skill they have absolutely perfected over time. Just thinking about the sound makes me feel nauseous.
There are women posing on the sidewalks with tassels that don’t cover enough simply for viewing pleasure and a quick photo op. There are t-shirts being worn, the bright orange emblazoned in my mind, using sexual words I won’t mention here along with a call to try it out.
Why not? Cause what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right?
I found my heart ripped in shreds. Torn. Hurting. Unable to ignore this blatant brokenness. I was seeing it loud and clear and it hurt every part of me and I wanted to pull those toothless grandma’s aside and say things like there’s a better way. I wanted to look into their eyes and plead with them to find it. I wanted to ask her how she got to this place and I wanted her to know there is more this life can offer her.
But I didn’t. I just looked with pity and kept walking.
It didn’t take long before my bleeding heart turned to anger. Anger at the fact that feminism has clearly gotten us nowhere as long as women still choose to display their bodies as objects before men. Anger at the gentleman who stopped purposefully to take not one, but two different cards from the lady clackity-clacking them together to get his attention. I watched him look and ponder them, staring first at one and then the other. I wanted to scream at him that he is disgusting and gross and how dare he! I wanted to point fingers and use accusing tones and publicly shame him for the way he is choosing to treat women and for his very vile nature. I wanted to yell so vehemently that spit would fly from my lips and he would feel small.
In short, I wanted him to know that I was better than him.
I got self-righteous and judgemental and I thought that every thing in me was better than anything in him and I followed it up with a so-there and I might as well have stuck my tongue out at him too. Clearly, that’s how mature I am.
The anger lasted. I couldn’t shake it. I felt entitled to it.
I mean, where was the justice? How was this okay? How could God allow this? He cannot be made in the image of God, that man who is calling the number on the card, he just can’t be. He is gross.
Turns out, though, that he was rubber and I’m the glue. Turns out that whatever I wanted to say quickly bounced off of him and came straight back to me. My pointing finger ricocheted right off of him and came back with a glaring stare into my own life and I heard my own words said not to him, but to me.
What about you? The words said. Are you really so perfect? Honourable? Holy?
It didn’t take long for the Holy Spirit to impress on my heart something that I had read years ago from Greg Paul’s book, God in the Alley. He said something along the lines of, “we’re all the same and we must see ourselves as such in order to minister to anyone and to last in a broken world.”
He’s right. This world is not a me vs. them. It’s not a righteous versus unrighteous. It’s not an I’m smarter than you because I make better choices. It’s not an I’m better than you because you’re gross and I’m moral. It’s not I’m more important because I didn’t take that card. Or I’m clearly superior because I don’t do THAT.
God showed me very clearly, in the dirty streets of sin city, that I am exactly the same as the man who picks up that phone and places an order for a woman to arrive at his door for the sheer pleasure of self-gratification.
I am him.
What more can I say except that I gratify the desires of my flesh daily, too. It may look different then the way he does it but I do it just the same. I do it with pretty clothes or with food or with comfort or with that illusive beast called stability. I do it daily by turning my back on God, by thinking that my ways are better than His instead of humbling myself to anything, no everything, that He asks of me.
When my life is held up before a holy God I am the same as that man.
Sure, I might veil it better. Hide my sins from the world better. Cover them up with respectable words like, “little white lie,” or, “not hurting anyone.” But my heart, my very being, all that I am is no different and how dare that I think I am.
We, each one of us, is made in the image of God. Each one of us has eternity written on our hearts. Each one of us feels the pull to worship. That worship belongs to God but instead we whore it out to everything that sparkles and shines in front of us. This world woo’s us in ways that it ought not. It tempts us, all of us, in ways that are gross and time and time again we give in.
It is only when I recognize that I am no better than that man on the streets of Vegas that I can realize that Jesus died for me and him. Both of us. Not because one of us is better or smarter or more right or more in tune with the social graces of the developed world. But simply because God was willing to make a way for us to be saved. Both of us.
I’m not smart enough to choose God. He was loving enough to choose me.
I’m not righteous enough to earn God. He offers salvation freely to all.
Christians, may our posture in this world reflect that.