I REMEMBER YOU. You weren’t who I expected you to be. I had never been inside a strip club before I met you. You were beautiful, of course. You were talented. You would have to be to dance and work the pole, while making it all look graceful and effortless. The costumes you wore were sexy, and the shoes on your feet looked entirely intimidating to me. None of these things, however, were beyond my expectations. What, then, surprised me? You. You surprised me.
You were kind to me. I am sure I looked as lost as I was, and you took me in. You showed me the ropes, and you taught me the dynamic of the club and the rules of the job. Carmen is the name you knew me by, and, though I only knew you by your stage name, we were friends. I was sorely lacking in people in my life who understood me the day I walked through the club doors. I didn’t know that in that dark space I would find a friend.
Your hair was blonde, brunette, it was straight or full of curls, it cascaded down your back, or it brushed your shoulders. You were only 18 with braces on your teeth, you were celebrating your 21st birthday , you were single, married, you had children, or you were pregnant. You were in your 40’s and wondering why you were still there, or, like me, you were 30 and wondering how it is you got there.
As a pregnant woman, you wore my dress every night because it made you feel beautiful as your belly grew. A party girl, you moved to California and I always wondered what happened to you. You moved on, you started your own business, or you are still in the clubs today. I never forgot any of you.
I WANTED TO FORGET YOU. When I walked away from the life, I wanted to forget everything. It wasn’t really you I didn’t want to remember…it was me. I didn’t want to see myself for who I had become. I did things I never thought I would do. I sacrificed so much of myself for the quick cash. You knew what I had done inside and out of the club. I had hoped I could forget. I am so glad that I couldn’t.
Remembering where I was, who I was, allows me to see the fullness of the grace of God. It affords me the opportunity to understand the depths of despair one can be in and still find her way out. I understand what it feels like to be made clean, because I was once so dirty. The light is bright to me because I spent so much time in darkness. I once thought my life was over, and now I am filled with hope. Becasue I lost everything, I can grasp what true restoration means. If all of these things are true for me, my precious friend, they are true for you.
WHERE ARE YOU NOW? Because God did not allow me to forget where I once was, I have the joy of continuing friendships with women who work in strip clubs today. These friendships are treasures to me; not just because we share a common bond, but because I now know about the hope that is in Jesus, and I get to share that hope with women I love.
My beautiful friends, from past and present, let me ask you a question or two. Are you still in a club? Are you in school? Are you working in what the outside world would call a “real job”? Have you gotten married? Are you still lost? Have you stopped believing in yourself? Where are you now?
I love you. I have loved you for years. You are not forgotten, not by me and certainly not by Jesus. You are treasured and are loved with an everlasting love. Wrap your head around the word everlasting. It is a love that never ends. People may love you for a moment, or for what you can do for them, but the love of Jesus never ends and never changes. It’s not dependent on who you are or what you have done. Like me, you may have been abandoned. God, the creator of the universe, will not abandon you. Someone may have made you feel worthless. You are worth everything. To Jesus, you are worth dying for.
Thank you, my friends, for surprising me with who you are. You know what the greatest surprise of all is, though? Not only did I make friends in the darkness of the clubs, but in that same darkness I found Jesus. He is there for you, too.
With So Much Love,
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