Last friday night was another late night of ministry to the girls caught in prostitution in south LA….however it proved to be a bit of a unique night in that there was this reoccurring theme with literally every girl that we talked to. The first girl we spoke with was super open and asked that we pray for God to take away her addiction to prostitution. She said it feels like no matter how bad she wants to be free from the lifestyle she just can’t stop coming out and selling her body. Over the next hour or so we talked to several more girls and all except one had the exact same prayer request for freedom from addiction. In six months of ministering on Friday night I’ve never heard the girls speak so openly on this subject. It was after I spoke with the final girl that I realized there is no way this could just be coincidence. She was so open and vulnerable with me about her life and her desire to make something of it. It took a while for her to bring up the addiction end of it but right when she did I knew God was trying to speak something to me. This girl had been a prostitute for the past 5 years, since she was eighteen years old, had been arrested sixteen times, nearly lost her life to one of the johns and in that same experience lost the baby she was seven months pregnant with. Yet, after all of this still couldn’t bring herself to leave the lifestyle. We talked a bit more about the addiction aspect of it and she asked me to pray for her for strength to leave the lifestyle within the next month. I prayed with her and after giving her a hug goodbye…walked away feeling a bit overwhelmed with feelings of brokenness.
All the way home that night I just cried…and prayed that God would show me what He was trying to speak to me through the girls. I was almost home when I felt like God said simply, “their addiction is their identity”. Considering all the things God has been speaking to me over the past few weeks it wasn’t this huge revelation but I realized he used the stories of the prostitutes that night to reveal to me truths about our culture. The majority of our culture has a misplaced addiction…and therefore a misplaced identity because our addictions are the root our identity. We’re so quick to judge these women for being on the streets and giving their bodies away…yet it’s no different from how so many of us live our lives…selling our lives, hearts and souls short for the sake of whatever makes us feel most complete in the moment whether that be money, a relationship, success, approval. Our lives move in the direction of our most dominant thoughts.
I’ve been living in this theme of misplaced Identity in my life for the past several months and God finally broke me out of it a few weeks ago. We’re made with this eternal longing. The addiction of the prostitutes is exactly this eternal longing misplaced. What God spoke to me is that the only small taste of freedom we’ll ever get in this lifetime is to transfer that addiction to what matters most eternally: loving God and loving people. To put it in the words of Timothy Keller, “The things we put our hearts on to fulfill our deepest longings will never fulfill them because what we’re really looking for is the tree of life, the image of immortal eternal life but also an image of irretrievable loss. A longing for something we remember but we’ve never had. In music we’re looking for a song we remember but we’ve never heard. In love we’re looking for arms that we remember but we’ve never had” We’re all just searching for it in different things. When I had this revelation I had this whole new feeling of connection with the girls in prostitution because I realized our battle is the same. Mine just looks different and perhaps culturally more acceptable but its the same heart motive. This is my heart now for the prostitutes, to somehow help them to taste in some small way of the fulfillment of the tree of life….to get a taste of God’s pure, passionate love for them. Exactly because I’ve learned that is the only thing that has ever made me feel fully alive…or given me a true sense of joy.
We live our lives with such a here and now mindset and our addictions are based in the fleeting satisfactions of pleasing self in the moment. As long as we remain so introspective and absorbed in our own needs we’re not able to experience the fullness of life that is offered through the tree of life: The taste of eternity that we remember but have never experienced. Even the smallest taste of that has given me so stinkin’ much fulfillment and joy in my life, especially recently, that I literally want to stand on a mountain top and scream it out to the world. Check your addictions. Life is a vapor. We’re here for two seconds, then gone. That should give us perspective.