Two years ago when we started our ministry, Aletheia, we knew not what we were doing. To some degree, we still don’t. Our ignorance is unavoidable, our knowledge quite limited. Nevertheless, there is a clear vision, a daily mission, and a constant groaning. We find ourselves undoubtedly in a race in which we strive for the finish. There is an odd confidence about being in the right place despite not knowing exactly where we are, so we press on.
The definitions that accompany resilience are interesting (from Merriam-Webster).
1 : the capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused especially by compressive stress
2: an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change
There is obviously one definition that generally applies to objects and another that generally applies to people (or at least things that undergo misfortune or change and care about recovering). I can not help but be intrigued by the common tie between them – the idea that something ought to take some certain embodiment.
One branch of Aletheia is our outreach effort St. Louis Strip Church. As part of the larger network of Strip Church, we, along with many others across the nation, reach out in unique ways to share the gospel with women in the exotic dancing industry. My wife, and founder of Aletheia, April, is a former dancer herself who after several years of resisting God’s calling to return to this arena of life, realized God was indeed asking her to serve and share the gospel with his daughters captivated and crippled by our culture. In the time April has followed this calling, she has interacted with numerous young women, some of whom desire a life away from the faux glamour and glory of glitter and greed. Having made the same journey years ago, April knows quite well the resilience one must have when leaving a lifestyle.
One young woman, whom we’ll refer to as Sky, informed April that she desired to leave the industry shortly after they first met. Sky experienced the conviction to leave the industry around six months ago. For her, these past six months have been some of the most challenging for her. Change thrusts into our lives all sorts of unfamiliarities, temptations, false expectations, disappointments, inadequacies, and disillusionments. The exodus from lingerie to legit in particular often requires an accompanying goodbye to friends, income, psuedo-fame, attention, events, rituals, habits, attire, and attitude. Beyond that, it typically involves a restructuring of one’s identity itself. Dancers have stage names for a reason. Initially it may be to retain some privacy or distance themselves with the role they play on stage. These names frequently however twist themselves into identities that are more than happy to pass out through the club doors and into the daily lives and thoughts of dancers. To leave the industry is to leave part, if not all, of one’s self. Rarely is this done in one step. Rarely is this done without objection.
Aletheia, despite it’s clean looking website with bright images and bold colors, is a bit of a rag tag ministry. It involves clearly imperfect people trying to help others, both of us stumbling through the swampy land of repentance and redemption. We are part way through the process of becoming a fully legal non-for-profit corporation. We have a board, a group of dedicated volunteers, and a growing family of supporters. We find ourselves tweaking all sorts of documents and plans as we head down the road of developing something that resembles a fully functioning 21st century ministry, whatever that is. Yet in the midst of the tax forms and bylaws and event planning and networking there is a bright and shining star far above it all. For us, it is the liberty of the gospel, the freedom of truth, the joy of no longer hiding. The trials and complications along the way pale in comparison to this light. There is a continual drawing to itself that captures our attention relentlessly. There is a constant love that somehow knows we are walking towards it and somehow reassures us through each clumsy step we take. In effect, as we endure changes and misfortune, we are being given the ability to recover, not for our sake, but for His. I’m quite afraid that our resilience is not actually of us. Rather, despite our insatiable desire for appreciation and acknowledgment, it is the very steadfast love and faithfulness of God that fuels human resilience.
So as our ministry moves along in its journey, and as our friend and sister Sky takes each trying step of hers, we find ourselves in communion with the author and creator of truth itself, including our true identity. Certainly we are sinners, yet certainly we are saved and somewhere inside my soul,April’s soul, Sky’s soul, and yours there is a familiarity and foundation of who we are, a constant Spirit beckoning us to endure, persevere, grow, change, and adapt because we were clearly created for something more. I can not fully explain it as these rather rambling words display, but I find there is no way to honestly deny the existence of such a holy spirit. It is almost as if there is a certain order to things that will not be stopped. Perhaps we find ourselves resilient because we are made in the image of a God who is constant. And although we are incredibly capable of failing in our resilience, He is not. Faith is certainly an odd thing. May we always find ourselves humbled to the point of knowing there is only one place it finds peace. May we always see the love and glory and faithfulness of Love, Glory, and Faithfulness Himself. May we know that our groan is by Him, through Him, and for Him.
And may our resilience always reflect the steadfast love that saves us all.
Co-founder of Aletheia Ministries