Our first meeting seemed simply by chance, sitting side by side in a small café in Indianapolis. Our separate conversations held in close proximity carried the same thread of interest, locations, names, and subject matter. I couldn’t stop my interruption as I leaned 6 inches to my left and said, “I can’t believe we are both talking about mission trips to India, the Church of God denomination, and shoe shopping. How do I not know you? Who are you?!”
Two months later, she walked through the front door of a mutual friend. We were both shocked. We laughed as we remembered our crowded dining experience and jokingly said, “God must want us to be friends! Let’s have lunch.”
Kimberly Majeski and I went to lunch. And that led to another lunch and then some shopping, and more lunches, and more shopping, and then to strip clubs. Turns out, my new friend likes to frequent some pretty dark places and I’m fairly sure that’s the reason God was the maître ‘de in the café last spring.
This is my story of going into the dark.
A Flashlight in the daytime
When you have a friend who makes a habit of going to strip clubs, there are going to be conversations. Conversations ranging from how to choose an “appropriate” outfit to wear when visiting a club to what happens when the dancer tells you she needs diapers for her toddler, a ride to the BMV, or a place to live. During those conversations, I always used my best supportive head nods and encouraging smiles. Because we all know that encouraging someone else without actually getting involved with what they are doing can be mitigated with the appropriate amount of nods and smiles.
One day, when we were talking about her growing ministry dreams, Kimberly said this, “When we walk through the door of a smoky and dark strip club, the light of Jesus inside us shifts everything. You can feel it.”
It was the “shifts everything” that caught my attention.
She went on to explain, “In strip clubs, the windows are blacked out or bricked shut so no light and no hope can get in….but when a believer walks through the door, every element of darkness (seen and unseen) cannot overcome the light. Everything shifts.”
And that’s the conversation that launched my memory bank back into 38 years of well-lit rooms. My Christian parents and home-church that molded my heart, ensuring there was never a day in my life I didn’t know Jesus loved me. I recalled mission trips my church took to help other churches build and grow their ministries domestically and overseas. There were summer camps and Christ loving counselors that instilled confidence and depth into my faith. As an adult, I’ve spent 15 years working in churches as worship leader, recording artist, and teacher. Sure, I’ve seen a few dark places…but often more stumbling on them by accident rather than going on purpose.
John 1:4-5 says, ‘In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’
By the grace of God, Jesus’s light lives in every believer. There is nothing we can do to change that miraculous truth. But then it occurred to me. I’m a flashlight in the daytime.
Imagine using a flashlight all day long, every day. It would be helpful at times. When things get grey or dim, the light brings clarity just when you need it. On a stormy day, the lights may even go out completely for a while. Thankfully, you’ve got the security and peace that a beam of light brings to the situation.
I think this is how I’ve been living. My Christ-light shines and gives hope to daily shadows and even occasional storms. But I’ve started to imagine what it would be like to take that light into a dark place. A really dark place. What would happen if I went into the dark on purpose?
I decided to give it a try. I told Kimberly I’d visit the clubs with her. Imagine the day when I sent a text to my pastor that read, “So….I went to two strip clubs last night.”
I enjoyed visiting the clubs. The women were friendly and nearly giddy when we came through the door as they exclaimed “The church ladies are here!” We delivered small gift bags with lip gloss and candy. I watched a way-too-young girl devour the chocolate in hungry gratitude. I sat with another woman my age and discussed the local high school merger, her grandbaby on the way, and favorite fast food. I spent time swapping stories and hanging out with women at the top of their shift. When the men started to arrive, our time was over. We left and I prayed the light would stick with them through the night.
Finding my Dark
Finding darkness is not hard. All we have to do is open our eyes to the sin and brokenness of the world around us. There are literally hundreds of options. Orphans, Widows, and Grieving Parents can’t remember what a warm light feels like. The Depressed, Poor, Hungry, Enslaved, Uneducated, Abused, Addicted, War-torn and Powerless are living every day in thick, heavy, darkness. So, how do we know where to go blazing with our light? For months now, I’ve been wrestling this single question.
Luke 10:1 After this, the Lord appointed seventy two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.
In this story, Jesus is sending out believers to places he has not yet been. These were not mission trips to the inner-city synagogue to re-paint the Sunday school rooms. These were dark places filled with evil spirits and demons (see Luke 10:17). But they were places he was ABOUT to go, and herein lies our answer.
We must allow Jesus to appoint us to the dark places he is about to go.
We can stumble into darkness every day. We often do. But we can’t miss our appointment to a specific place. (He didn’t send all 72 to the same place!!) There is a darkness that needs the unique nature of the way Jesus’s light mixes with our life experience, passion, and gifts.
Into the Dark
I’m still asking God to show me the dark places he wants to go with me. My heart has always been especially broken for the vulnerable and voiceless children in our community, so I’m investigating CASA. For now, what I know is that I’m not supposed to hang out in the comfortable daylight all the time. I’m going back into the dark, on purpose. It will be more strip clubs. But I think it will be other places too.
Where are you going to go? I’d love to hear about it.
When we walk into the dark, the light of Jesus will shift the darkness. Did I feel it? Did I know it was true? Yes, I did.
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