Robbing is what she does. She's a thief, you see. That's how we met. She sneaked past the guard next door, entered the house and grabbed money, a computer and some other things before the guard spotted her, caught her and tied her up.
For some reason, I was called to come over and see. Probably because everything in Africa is a communal event. When I arrived, the guard and a friend of mine were standing at a distance from the criminal, discussing the event.
Only, she didn't look like a criminal. She looked like a frightened, guilty little twenty year old.
She was a thief, to be sure. She was caught red-handed and I could see in their faces that they were disgusted with her.
I approached her and sat beside her. They called out, "Do you feel sorry for her?"
But not for the reason they thought. It was not because I was a naive American feeling sorry for an impoverished orphan who turned to theft in desperation. I was grieved because I knew that her bondage was much deeper than the ropes that restricted her little body. She was a prisoner to darkness and deception.
It tore at my heart that she didn't know the freedom of living in the light, of having nothing to hide. She was just being used, you see. That's the enemy's way. He uses people. He incites them, uses them, and abandons them. He has no mercy.
I put my arm around her and although I was told she didn't know French or English, but only one of the village tribal languages, I prayed that somehow GOD would help her to understand what I was telling her. Her head was tucked on her knees, but I leaned in and asked her her name. I told her that she didn't have to steal, that she could be free. There is hope, I said, "Do you know there is hope for you?"
She nodded "yes".
That was all I could communicate. She didn't seem to understand too much of what was being said about her, except for the word "Gendarme" (the local police). Whenever she heard that word, tears would stream down her face. She was terrified. I would have been too. The Gendarme have a reputation for brutality and corruption. Unless you have money to pay them off, you really don't want to ever see them close up.
The guard was waiting on the master of the house to arrive. He would decide her fate. We pleaded with the guard not to allow anyone to beat her. He agreed, as though it were up to him, but said that his master was a good man.
My MASTER is also good. HE doesn't run from troublemakers, thieves and liars. HE doesn't abandon mess-ups and failures. When sin and bad decisions threaten to ruin our lives, HE has a plan of hope.
I once heard someone say that GOD has a plan for you, and if you get off the plan, HE always has a plan to get you back on the plan.
The enemy has a plan for this dark little beauty and his plans end up just as she was, bound and frightened. He gave her what she wanted, prosperity for the moment....for a very small moment. But that's all he can give, you see, because he can't give the good things that last.
My MASTER can.
HE may withhold some things in this temporary life, but it is only so that we can have the riches that last forever. HE isn't content to satiate us with corruptible things. HE wants us to enjoy the things that are forever enjoyable...things that get better and better with time and can never be stolen away from us.
I wish I could tell her that. But, I can't. So, I'll tell you.
Maybe the ties that bind you aren't literal ropes. Maybe they are tighter and deeper and darker.
Hear me! GOD is not afraid of you. You are not the one mess up that HE can't fix. You have not done anything that HE cannot forgive, fix and begin to use in your favor. That's what HE does. HE takes the things that restrict and ruin us, and HE makes them make US victorious!
I'll prove it to you. Here's what JESUS said...
"The SPIRIT of the LORD GOD is upon me;
because the LORD has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor,
HE has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor,
and the day of vengeance of our GOD;
to comfort all who mourn,
to grant to those who mourn in Zion---
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit (a spirit of despair),
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, that HE may be glorified.
They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations...
...Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion;
instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot;
therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion;
they shall have everlasting joy.
I am living proof that this is true. Can I be honest with you? Throughout the night, when I saw that beautiful girl's crouched body, her head hung in despair, I saw myself.
I lived with ropes for a long time. I didn't see them as ropes, of course. In fact, I tried to make them fashion accessories. It worked for a while, but they just got tighter and tighter.
Then, my WILD MAN burst in and did exactly what HE said he could. HE gave me beauty for ashes.
I don't like ropes as a fashion accessory anymore...I prefer that "garment of praise". Its much more comfortable and it comes without the high price tag of shame.
(Try it on! HE has one that fits you too!)