Has your heart ever ached? I’m not just talking about feelings of sadness. I’m talking about that indescribable throb of a barely beating heart as your mind races to try and grab hold to any semblance of clarity. And your body? It’s stuck, waist deep in a sloshy, frozen mud pit with no leverage to pull yourself out, completely paralyzed to act on any of it, numb to feeling anything else. For many of us, that emotional state is not a foreign concept. Yet, it is one that we often pretend doesn’t exist. When I try to summarize it into one word, I follow the trail down to the very bottom of what I am feeling, finding myself at the bitter end of disappointment.
Many years ago, while running a ministry for those involved in the sex industry and through a series of other divine circumstances, I met a young woman. There was a noticeable fragility about her; how fearful she was to make decisions and how much she seemed to desire guidance and encouragement. We had a long distance friendship, and as time passed our conversations on the phone turned into visits out to California. The friendship deepened– and my husband Matt and I gained a sobering understanding of how the heart-breaking experiences of our sweet friend had shaped and left her with a broken life, a broken view of her self-worth and a broken view of what relationships should look like. Throughout the years we walked with her through a relentless series of tragedies that seemed as if they would never let up, from losing custody of her daughter, to the loss and betrayals of friends, and then, her mom’s suicide. As her emotional capacity began to unravel, I saw how the circumstances of her life left her completely ill-equipped to cope, and ultimately led to the poor choices she was making in the wake of her pain. What we had learned was that Amber was a victim of the human trafficking cesspool, and we were watching her drown without the skills, resources, or relationships to survive.