Cut the string.
Yesterday, I visited the beach with a friend. We were sitting down for a break from the very strenuous, half-hour in our floats, when a flock of pigeons began walking toward the table where we were sitting. I noticed one in particular pigeon that seemed to only have one leg. I observed it for a minute to find that he actually had the other leg curled up under him. Something still seemed off, so I continued watching him. As he began walking, I realized what it was. He was holding his leg up because a piece of string had wrapped itself around his leg near his foot, causing his entire claw to swell up to more than twice the size of the healthy one. The string probably caught on earlier in his life, but as his leg grew, the string cut the circulation from his leg to his claw. It broke my heart, so I shared it with my friend. My very brave friend tried to catch him in efforts to free him of the string, but he flew away every time she came near. We tried a few different plans, but we eventually gave up as he flew away from the property where our belongings were.
I was really sad thinking about his foot and the pain he must have been in. I knew that catching him would have really frightened him. I also knew that the removal of the string would have been a painful process, but I knew that it would be necessary to save his leg and quite possibly his life... and then, I thought of the women we serve at MERCY Workshop.
These women have become so accustomed to working the streets, that leaving the life they know is actually a very scary thought. Most of them began working in prostitution as children. They were exploited by a family member or teenage "boyfriend," and they wouldn't have the slightest idea of how to live life in any other way. The process of stepping out of their addictions and away from their abusers actually feels more scary and painful than just continuing to live in that place. We know this and many other facts as we go out each week. We know that we are offering something that they really can't even imagine. Something they may not even believe exists. We know it's going to be SO much better for them to cut the string, but, many times, they fly away whenever we get close.
They usually continue flying further and further away until we have to let them go. It may be because of a physical move, or it may be that they just shut us out or deny our requests to help them. Regardless, we know our work isn't over. That one may eventually come back around. She usually will even if it is years later, but, in the mean time, we reset our focus. We know there will be another who will let us get close enough to actually help. The ones we get to help make the work worth it and remind us of why we keep chasing the ones still flying out of our reach.
The work that we do is constantly slapping me in the face with my own sins. It's easy to find the irony and the metaphors when it's someone else's pain or life that I'm thinking about. But the Father is so gentle in the ways He uses their lives to show me that I'm not really any different. He offers me freedom from my sins, but I keep living in them. He reaches down to cut me free, but I fly away, making excuses for why the pain of my sin isn't as bad as someone else's. Sometimes, I just avoid the pain all together and pretend like I'm not hurting myself. All the while he keeps reaching down and calling to me until I fly too far. Only with the Father, I'm never out of His reach. I just finally go far enough that my human ears can't always hear His beckoning. But, just like we do with our women, He checks on me and let's me know that He's here when I'm ready to cut the string. I always come back around and let Him do it, but the scars of my sin are a painful reminder that I should have come home sooner.
The amazing thing about scars as a believer is that they don't have to be a painful reminder forever. Usually in the beginning they are. And, if we choose to hide our scars, they may always be. But, I've found that sharing our hurts and flaws can actually bring healing. I've found that the Lord can take the sin of my life and redeem it to bring Him glory and give me purpose. I don't know about you, but I like that much more than choosing to cover up something and live in secret misery of my past choices.
I'm in awe that the Savior used a pigeon to remind me of our women and the women to remind me of His grace on my own life. I'm amazed that He wants to use a flawed, prodigal sinner to work on a tropical island as a "missionary." I'm thankful that He always hopes to be able to reach down to cut the string.