Pattaya, thanks for reminding me

I forgot what it was like.

During the day, they’re sitting around the bar putting on loads of makeup. At night, the miniskirts come out and the smiles turn on like clockwork.

As I walked down a street lined with bright lights, bar stools, too many old white men and half-dressed young Thai women, my stomach tightened and eyes watered. I exhaled some prayers and tried to manage my way to the other side.

Back in my tiny $5 hostel room or sitting by a nearby hotel pool, I can easily get lost in my own world and forget about what I just saw. But the moment I bring myself back to the memory of that street or look up from my book at the pool to see only 40+ year old men, I feel sick again. It feels like Gehenna, like Hades, like Sheol, like Hell…whatever word you choose to use.

My soul is weary in such darkness. My entire being can’t even stand to be near it. And yet, I know that God is there. I don’t understand it but I’m convinced of it. There is no darkness in him, and yet even the darkness is not dark to him, it is as light to him.

My God is too kind, too compassionate, too humble, too in love with his creation to leave this place. And I think that’s what my spirit is crying for while I am there. It’s crying out for repentance. It’s hoping for justice and begging for mercy. It’s crying out for people to stop exploiting, stop using people as objects, stop believing the lie that they are unlovable, and to stop choosing destruction rather than true life.

Brennan Manning says, “The dogged fidelity of Jesus in the face of our indifference to his affection and our rampant ingratitude for his faithfulness – he is always faithful, for he cannot disown his own self (2 Tim. 2:11) – is a mystery of such mind-bending magnitude that the intellect buckles and theology bows in its presence. Humbly acknowledging our limitations, we are driven to the fervent prayer, “Lord, I do believe! Help my lack of trust!”

I can feel the bondage and the chains that people live with as I walk around this city. They grope at me and pull at me but they can’t hold me. All they can do is move me into passionate prayer and tear-filled intercession as my soul yearns for the kingdom of redemption to crash into this place.

If God can be in such a place – where indifference toward him fills the air, my soul can endure to walk into the darkness as light and to expose his outrageous love and radical grace.

Dear God, please don’t let me forget again.