I’m not entirely sure if it’s American culture (of which I am blissfully unaware) or if it’s Marine Corps culture or some horrendous collision of the two. All I know is that when The Pilot and I rolled into Jacksonville, North Carolina I distinctly remember asking him, “What’s with all the buildings with no windows? Is there a large Jehovah’s Witness demographic in this town?”
I have yet to learn whether or not there a lot of Jehovah’s Witnesses here, but I have learned that all those windowless buildings, with oddly in-descriptive signage and full parking lots are, in fact, strip clubs.
They are everywhere. On nearly every street I drive on, I pass one or two in order to get Target, church, the grocery store, bible study, etc. I see them everyday.
For the first few months, whenever I would pass a club I would pray, “Lord, I ask that business there would cease! That women would not seek employment in such an establishment and that men would not seek entertainment. God, convict their hearts.”
And conviction came. It roared down like a cloud of fire, illuminating not the sin of strippers or the men watching them, but the sin of my own heart.
While my prayers may have sounded well-intentioned and holy, they were laden with self-righteousness and nothing but disgust and condemnation for the patrons of those clubs. My heart held no compassion. It did hold, however, plenty of judgment.
Therein lay the problem: I judged an action and assumed judgment on the heart.
Do I think strip clubs are OK? Innocent pleasure? Harmless entertainment? No. I don’t.
I do think though that at the end of the day, I’m no better than a stripper. Truly. I sin everyday, despite my best efforts and when push comes to shove, all sin carries the same weight. Whether you take your clothes off for money, covet another woman’s wedding ring, lie to your husband about how much you spent on groceries, the sum is the same. We desperately need to be rescued from ourselves.
What I’ve learned is that my prayers can and should be radically different.
Instead of praying that women would feel so much shame that they can’t bring themselves to be on stage, I pray that women’s heart would encounter the love and pursuit of God in a real way. That they would know they are loved, treasured, fought for and desired not for their body, but for the beauty of their spirit. That they would be filled with hope knowing that they do not need to sell themselves to be loved, valued or worthy of attention. I pray that they would believe that they are worthy or respect and protection from a man who does not consider her something to be bought, but a heart to be protected and cherished.
I pray that men would not give sight or time to women who are not their wives. I pray that their hearts would be turned towards their spouses, that their desire both emotionally and physically would be for one woman to whom they are married. Not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it is truly the most fulfilling thing to do.
And I pray, lastly, for myself; that my heart would always be soft, compassionate, and gracious towards those who believe and live differently than I do. Not out of pity, but because of the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; that He desires that all would come to know Him and His saving grace so that no one should perish.
In the same way Jesus loved me in my darkest moments, so He loves the men and women in those strip clubs. Not because of what they do, but because of what He wants to do in and through their lives.