Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Scars and Stilettos

Four years ago, when Love Wins was just a crazy idea and my wife had no idea of how to serve the clubs, we stumbled across Harmony Dust's ministry of Treasures. As a former dancer who is now leading the incredible ministry of Treasures, Harmony coached Erin and the other ladies on how to begin this type of ministry; from what gifts to bring to what to say to the bouncers. Harmony just published her autobiography, Scars and Stilettos and I was privileged enough to get a free copy.

A comment on the back of the book reads "Once you start this book, you will not be able to put it down. You will laugh, you will cry, you will be encouraged, you will fall in love with God all over again." When I first read that, I just assumed it was written to help sell the book. Nope. That statement is completely true. I started the book on a Saturday afternoon and finished it in the PRMS parking lot just before set-up the next Sunday morning.

I've been growing into a more accepting and empathetic person. I must admit though, that I've got a pretty narrow perspective. I grew up in a fairly normal and healthy family. My parents loved us and taught us to love God. I think the love and support of my family of origin is why I simply cannot understand how someone could stay in an abusive relationship or allow themselves to be used and exploited.

It's one of the biggest understatements ever written on this blog to say that Harmony didn't grow up in the same supportive and loving environment.

Several times while reading this book, I gasped out loud as I read of how men would treat Harmony and yet she kept coming back to them. As a result of her story, for the first time ever, I had a clear glimpse into the thought process of an abuse victim.

Here are some excerpts that illustrate what was going on in Harmony's mind.

In reference to the boyfriend who repeatedly raped her, "In the end, it was easier to blame myself than to make sense of the ambiguity of it all. If it was my fault, I still had control. If blame rested on me, there was always the hope that I could change."

Harmony lived with a boyfriend for several years. This guy took all of her earnings as a dancer and spent them on himself, while refusing to get a job of his own. He repeatedly left for long periods of time, going to see other girlfriends, only to return home suddenly. He even brought another girlfriend who was pregnant with his child, over to live in the apartment Harmony paid for - forcing her out onto the couch.

At one point, this guy realized other people were aware of Harmony's sexuality. Her earlier experiences of abuse seemed result in the wrong kind of attention. As men walked by and looked at Harmony, her boyfriend stated matter-of-factly, "I could sell you."

Read that again.
That statement alone sums up the years of abuse and exploitation Harmony allowed herself to experience.

"As we so often do, I stayed in my dysfunction because it was most familiar to me, and familiarity was the closest thing to comfort I knew. Emerging from that has taken time, and it's an ongoing process."

But God's love is relentless. God's love searched for Harmony through all the abusive relationships, the black lighted table-dance booths and the authentic Christianity of some new friends. The following are some quotes from the 'lighter' part of the book, when Harmony is being introduced to the love of Jesus and his followers.

"I was nervous about telling her, because I thought coming clean might mean that she wouldn't want to talk to me any more - after all, she was a Christian. I didn't know much about Christians, but I was pretty sure they didn't like strippers."

"It was time to start running toward a greater Love. As I walked back home, He whispered my name in the afternoon sun that shone gentle and warm. Each ray was a reminder of His kindness outstretched towards my weary soul."

The description of Harmony's baptism brought tears to my eyes. Her own words, "I had been in the process of becoming. And that evening, I was going to leave all the pain - all the things I never wanted to be - right there in that water, and I was going to emerge a new person."

In writing about an interaction with a dancer in her ministry, Treasures, "Melanie Star is a young woman who embodies this vision. After hearing about Treasures, Melanie was so moved she asked if she could come with us on an outreach, even though she wasn't ready to give up her job at the strip club. One night with the team was all it took before she announced that she was going to clean out her locker at work and leave stripping behind. Not because we told her to, or made her feel bad about what she did for a living, but because God was doing a work inside her. It's not our job to judge and convict people. All we have to do is love people and trust in God and His goodness, because it's the goodness of God that inspired people to change."

"[God] loved me while I was still in the middle of my deepest mess. My relationship with Him did not begin once I 'got my act together'. He not only loved us in spite of our junk, but He sees past all of it to the person He has created us to be. God loved me just as much standing half-naked in the middle of a strip club as He does today. I didn't somehow gain His approval by doing or saying the right things. I didn't need to win His heart. He won mine."

You can order a copy of Harmony's book at this link, Scars and Stilettos.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Some Thoughts...

In case you hadn't noticed, there is a small political debate happening right now. To be honest, I can't understand the ferocity - why it's necessary and where it's coming from. Here's a thought to share from Rob Bell.

"How many of you have found yourself observing a debate and realized both sides have really good things to say and both sides are a little nuts in some areas? '[That's when we realize] I can't any longer make cartoon characters of the other side because I've actually listened to the other side and there are some things I agree with and some things I don't. And I realize they're probably looking at me the same way.' So the best posture is to take the best of both sides and leave behind the parts of both sides that should be left behind.

When you see people parking themselves at one side or the other, creating a character of the other side then gaining lots of viewers and making lots of money beating up a mythical character of the other side, you realize, 'these people are exploiting the [polarities] for their own gain and power.'

Then you realize, 'I can't do that anymore. These kind of simplistic ways of dividing the world, these dualities, don't work anymore.'

When you see people exploiting them, creating division, continuing to argue so as to uphold this system, you realize, 'it doesn't work.' "


Now, if only I could live that way.