Through a series of inexplicable events, some slow changes to my heart, and a decision or two, I’ve come into contact with someone at a local non-profit that seeks to serve and defend victims of Tucson Childhood Sex Trafficking. When I emailed Megan to ask her about the needs of Sold No More (previously Streetlight Tucson), I was planning on answering their phones, cleaning their floors, and really just starting with the lowest-level of skill required. In my experience with Ronald McDonald House and a few other organizations, that’s what they feel comfortable having new volunteers do. Then, if the volunteer sticks around and grows to love the organization, they find a better fit.
However, the needs Megan listed for me were much more involved, and she even listed a few that she thought would fit me well, since I’d included on my application that I am an English teacher. The most manageable need on her list seemed to be developing a book club curriculum. So, even though they hadn’t yet accepted me as a volunteer, I ordered the book Renting Lacy.
It’s a relatively short book (162 pages) written to be accessible and compelling, while also informative. It weaves together a narrative of true stories of Child Sex Trafficking, presenting the issue from multiple perspectives, including pimps and buyers.
I’ll refrain from attempting to describe what I’ve learned from Lacy, because words aren’t up to the task. However, I do recommend that you give a couple of hours of your life and read this book, regardless of your current thoughts and beliefs on the sex industry, it is a devastating piece of life, and worth your time and effort. Be warned, though, the tactful writing will not soften the blow of the shockingly mature content. Author Linda Smith may use the gentlest of words possible for this subject matter, but the tragedy and horror of such stories are inescapable.
As a writer, I struggle to create the pieces of a story that can’t be revealed through dialogue and plot. Part of the reason I struggle with this in writing is because I struggle with it in life. In everyday interactions, I rely almost entirely on what people tell me and what happens. Partly, I’m this way because as a teenager, I decided that it’s incredibly unfair to hypothesize or make assumptions about another person, and thus made it my mission to maintain a perception that matched up as completely as possible to the observable, real-world person in front of me as I could. However well-intentioned I may have been in trying to avoid unfair judgment of another person, though, I inadvertently led myself away from looking beneath the surface, which is quite the tragedy, because most of who we are is beneath the surface. For example, a character or person’s shifts of identity and heart might slowly manifest themselves in his or her behavior and speech, but the change occurs long before it becomes observable.
But how do I write that?
Also, how do people actually change?
Several years ago, there was someone who started attending my church, and almost immediately set out to change some of our stances on issues and certain doctrines we held to. When Dave (Pastor) and I were talking about the situation, I was overwhelmingly sympathetic to the new person. I expressed my beliefs that she wasn’t ill-intentioned and that she needed grace, as well as my broken-heartedness for her; I viewed the church’s response to her as a little mean.
Then Dave said something. He said that God is the one who changes us; she doesn’t get to direct that change.
As a writer, I’m ridiculously well-planned. I don’t like starting without an outline for each and every chapter, along with any number of other “plotter” tactics in place. I write character sketches; I create soundtracks for each scene; I draw maps, and I even create Sims characters or draw really bad sketches to ensure that nothing is left to chance… I have to know everything about every aspect of the story before I write. Then, I force my characters to do what I want them to do, and get frustrated when the plan has to change. And, instead of changing the plan, I just throw all of my work out and start all over at the beginning.
But what if there’s something to just sitting down and writing. I don’t subscribe to all the hippie, “pantser” mumbo-jumbo about letting the characters show me the story, but I also probably shouldn’t outline myself into a corner, eh?
In life, I’ve been trying pretty hard for the past couple of years to just see what happens. I usually stick myself into certain, highly-arbitrary routines, and force myself to keep them, but it seemed like God was ruining all of my routines for awhile there, so I thought that might have been His way of telling me to knock it off.
So I stopped.
I stopped planning every moment of every day; I stopped keeping routines that I didn’t feel like keeping; I stopped attending events that I didn’t have a good reason for attending… I just stopped.
And it’s really difficult to just exist and wait, but that’s what I’ve been doing. I know it probably doesn’t seem like that from the outside, because what others see is that I bought a house, signed up to go to Asia next year, shifted my teaching focus from ELLs to gen. ed., etc…. But, believe it or not, I haven’t been trying to do anything at all. I’ve just let things come my way. or not. and I’ve been patient.
Because changes happen mysteriously and invisibly, and it’s not for me to direct them.
Going off of what’s observable, it seems as if I’m changing in a few specific ways… but those changes are imaginary. Instead, God is changing me how He wills, in ways that haven’t yet manifested themselves in words or actions.
Still, in the two years that I’ve been trying to be patient and malleable, a few people have said and done things that seem an awful lot like creating a Sim character of me and then trying to make me into that character.
And each time, I’ve felt myself struggling that same internal conflict that came with the new girl who wanted to change a church’s doctrines: Am I being mean by ignoring other people’s aims for me? Sometimes it feels mean, because I know what it feels like to look at another and think I know what he should do and be. I know what it feels like to believe I see his primary flaw and the one change that he should make in his life because it would fix everything.
And that’s why I’m still writing Weston’s story – because I’ve fixed him rather than letting him change slowly, invisibly, in a way that I can’t contrive.
So, while I know (all-too-well) the urge to just fix the problem, I’m trying to do a better job of reserving myself for the changes God has in mind for me (and for Weston too). It’s entirely possible that the flaws people see in me and the ones I see in Weston are terrible and need fixing… but those flaws aren’t for human hands to reshape, because only God’s hands are strong enough to change earthen vessels.
So… I’m probably getting a little too excited and may be horribly disappointed, but this trailer makes the Battle Room look way better than I imagined it, and it was pretty amazing in my imagination. Also, Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Asa whatever his name is, and Abigail what’s-her-face!?!?!?!?!?! – I think this might redeem the book-turned-into-a-movie hopes in my heart.
“How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:17 NIV)
I came to the door expecting to politely tell the woman I was not interested in anything she was selling. I wasn’t in the mood to even listen to her pitch. I have had to deny others before, so I knew how to delicately handle the situation.
The attributes of a good friend as evidenced by the outstanding characteristics my current friends exhibit:
Steve – In all situations, I’m convinced that Steve will not only know what to do, but execute it well and explain why his solution makes sense. He knows pretty much everything and is good at pretty much everything, and I’m often jealous of how much he understands. He also manages this without coming across as a know-it-all, because he’s also rather humble.
Lori –The primary reason I believe Lori and I have managed to remain friends is her calm and steady nature. In spite of several years when I was almost completely unavailable to Lori, we’re back to hanging out on a weekly basis. Most friends would have been like, “Screw Katie! She clearly doesn’t care about me!” However, Lori has never once made me feel terrible for my “Drops of Jupiter” trek out into the land of Salsa dancing and angsty stupidity.
Dave – My favorite attribute of Dave’s is the grace with which He corrects me. He’s observed quite a few of my darkest moments and managed to simultaneously rebuke, edify, and comfort me.
Lisa – Lisa is the best listener I know. God gave us two ears and one mouth because we’re meant to talk half as much as we listen, right? Lisa not only listens and asks questions, but she makes her words count. She doesn’t speak frivolously or carelessly; she uses her words to build up.
Matt – Of all my friends, the one I most often hope will be at group events is Matt. He lightens the mood, makes people laugh, teases, and plays. It doesn’t matter which combination of people show up to an event; if Matt is there, I feel confident I’ll have a good time.
Ashly – I think I have more in common with Ashly than I have with anyone else in my life. She loves literature, understands Comicon and other geeky fun, and just generally enjoys the things I also enjoy. She’s also a high school English teacher, which gives us hours of material to discuss.
Amy the Dentist – I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who is quite as humble as Amy is.
I think I’ve been in a phase of bad friendship. I’ve struggled to listen or even care about the people in my life. I haven’t prayed well for them or thought about what I can do to help them out, and I’ve been disappointed to discover incompetence, flakiness, condemnation, selfishness, rain-on-the-parade, and arrogance in my heart.