This vivid image came to me one morning when I walked to work one day with the lavish sunshine lightened up the street of downtown Toronto. A breeze in a speed of 15km/hr swept through my hair. A familiar smell found its way to my senses – not a smell of gasoline or the perfume of this woman who walked past me, but a stench of dirt and sweats and blood. I was awakened by this stench and was wondering where did that come from. I was still walking in the middle of Bay Street. Troops of people who were already chasing past me as they hurried into the office building. I found myself slowing down my stride, and looking for that stench.
I realized that stench is actually from this image in my head.
On a sunlight-filled street of Phnom Penh, a little girl, probably 8 years old, walked out with a limp from the White Building, a dilapidated structure. She shouldered nothing on her back but her only piece of clothing. I saw that she had no shoes or sandals. I saw her walking out of this building with her head held up, with her eyes looked ahead to afar. She was walking with a limp yet with a firm striding forward as if she knows where she was heading to. Her hair was all tangled and clustered. I remember I tried to entangle such a mess of clustered hair of a girl not too long ago. Yes, that very same smell rising up from her hair. She was walking forward as if there was a message carried with her to bring to someone. That message is, I now realize, she is not going back to the brothel that night. She walked out that very morning without a piece of her belongings. Yet she walked out knowing full well that she is not going back. She made that decision at the daybreak. She made that decision knowing the fact that her slave owner would hunt her down or harm her. She made that decision mostly she knows there is a God whose power is stronger than those who are with the slave owner.
“They will know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from those who enslaved them.” Ezekial 34:12
Father God, I thank you for this image which will never leave me. An image spoke to me at such a time when I start to catch my breath from chasing after the dust skipping in the horizon and wonder whether I could still go on with so much brokeness that raging against the most vulnerable and the most helpless ones. The girls I had held so tight with my arms and legs 6 months ago. The smile I caught in a half second from their faces. I don’t even know their names. Are they alright? Are they hungry? Are they being abused and beaten? Are they being hurt? I think of them constantly that hurts so badly. Unexpected tears would follow … washing and washing and washing down from my heart to the floor, puddles of tears … puddles and puddles of tears ….
Yet this very image stands as an anchor of invitation from my Father God, “This is why I am calling you and this is what I am calling you to do. Jessika, my dear child, you have changed so radically that you don’t even recognize who you once were. (Yes, exactly!!) Such a radical change demands your action, your perserverence, your unwavering faith in Me. (How I want you to detach yourself from your self, but in a different way. Remember always, that I really like the little vermin, and sets an absurd value on the distinctness of every one of them. When I talk about losing your self, I only mean abandoning the clamour of self-will, once you have done that, I would give you back all your personality and boasts that when you are wholly Mine, you will be more yourself than ever. — C.S. Lewis)”
Our dearest friend, Lisa Cheong, is about to leave for Cambodia to take up the role of Country Director of Ratanak International. In her prayer letter, she quoted the following of Tim Keller, which speaks volume and reflects how I feel too.
“An adventure is a “ there and back again”. It is an exciting thing that you choose — you go and you have your adventures, you have all your thrills and it spices up your life and you come home again and pick your life up where you left off. But a quest is not something you choose, it comes to you, you sense a requirement, you are called to it because of what is involved. You never really come back from a quest. In a quest, you either die for the quest or if you do come back, you are so changed, that you never in a sense come back. You are never the way you were.You change so radically. Christianity is not an adventure, it is not a ‘there and back again’. Christianity is a quest. God says ‘get out, you are going to be radically changed, don’t ask Me whether or not what I am about to do will fit into your agenda. Christianity is a whole new agenda. Don’t say ‘how is this going to enrich my life, Christianity is a whole new life.”
I believe I have never come back from the quest, too!!