Apr26FriApril 26, 2019
It’s not an easy place to walk into. The atmosphere is heavy, the lighting is dim, and as fully clothed woman, we are naturally out of place. Out of place with the patrons and the girls who are working. They can’t figure out why we are there, and I’ll be honest, sometimes neither can I!
It is a place of business. The commodity for sale? Women. The cost? Everything. And as the light of the sun fades outside, any light inside the Manor dims, threatening to be extinguished altogether and the darkness can feel all consuming.
This is what we walk into on Thursday nights and if I’m honest, sometimes the weight of it can be paralyzing.
But not this night. This night was different, and we knew it from the time we prayed fervently in the parking lot.
We approached the large steel doors, took a deep breathe and swung them open, stepping into a world where we knew we didn’t belong, but we knew we were called.
We were met by a lovely girl at the front desk. She smiled, but her eyes were tired. “This job isn’t my favorite,” she told us. And she’s just taking the cover charge. The bouncer spotted us and came to chat. He’s there almost every time. Friendly, smiling and willing to eat our cookies when we bring them.
Stationed in the entry between the girl’s change room and the bar with a box of make-up bags and no idea what we would encounter. It all seemed pretty “normal”.
Then she walked by, towering above us in her very high heels. We asked her if she wanted a make-up bag and she jumped back in fear, refusing it several times until she heard it was because God loved her. A smile spread across her face, she leaned in and whispered “I’m a Christian”.
And so began a whirlwind of events that only God could have orchestrated. Every girl we talked to started right into their life stories, including their spiritual journey’s, hopes and dreams. They expressed desire to share their stories —something we had prayed specifically for — and to meet outside of the club —also direct answer to prayer —. For an hour we never left the entrance of the club and found ourselves in a circle with the women in the change room praying for them. When we finally made our way into the club, it was more of the same. More openness, more life stories, more open doors, and at the end we prayed for one of the waitress’ elbow’s and it was healed.
We left the club after two hours, rather than the typical 15-20 minutes, overwhelmed by how God had showed up, stepped into our space and prepared the way. Never before have we had a night that in the club. We were pumped.
Fast forward two weeks later.
Once again we approached the large steel doors, took a deep breathe and swung them open, stepping to a world where we knew we didn’t belong, but we knew we were called.
But this time was different. There were hardly any girls and more patrons. And there were more of us. I felt completely out of place. Awkward does not even begin to describe it. Girls I had talked to the last time didn’t remember me, starting conversation was next to impossible and though I prayed for words, none came. When we returned to the car, everyone praised God for the connections they made and the amazing encounters they had with the girls — and I could not relate at all. I felt like I had been in a completely different club. I know they experienced the things they were saying, I watched it happen, but my experience was completely different.
I could feel the spirit of comparison and condemnation rising up in me but I didn’t say a word.
They were on the inside, I was on the fringe.
God was speaking to them, and He was silent with me.
They pressed in, and I was paralyzed.
God was using their gifts, and I felt like I didn’t have anything to give.
Have you ever felt like that?
Like there is a party and you weren’t invited? Everyone says it was amazing but you don’t get it?
Like you don’t belong?
The next few days I was bombarded by these deep rooted beliefs that I didn’t realize were so ingrained in my heart. That God uses other people but not me. That He will do things for other people that He won’t do for me. Maybe I was wrong about going into the club? Maybe I shouldn’t be part of this at all. Maybe I don’t belong.
Funny enough, the word God gave me for 2019 is BELONGING … so I probably should have expected to come face to face with rejection.
This experience had hit a whole bundle of nerves and I was a mess on the inside. My gut reaction is to retreat. To run. To withdraw. Anything to remove the pressure from the area until I can “figure this thing out myself”.
But I know better. We all know better, don’t we?
That isolation is not the way to belonging.
That retreat is not the way to embrace.
That running is not the way to freedom.
So I told them, painfully aware of my inability to ask for what I need. Yeah, that voice message might have been the most awkward and confusing thing I’ve ever recorded. I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t understand what I was feeling. I couldn’t articulate it to save my life, but I knew I needed to be honest and I knew I needed them to pray.
And after I did it I felt so much better … NOT!
I felt vulnerable and exposed. Like a failure for not “being where they are”. And then I topped that off with a little condemnation for even comparing myself in the first place so I could conclude that I don’t belong, and I never did.
Yikes, right? Not exactly the side of us we like to show, right? Not the kind of thing you see on instagram.
The next day I went to church. Not like I felt like it. Good thing God shows up wether we feel like it or not.
They read from Jeremiah 1 — which happens to be my life passage. And surprise, surprise, it touched on every nerve in that bundle.
Immediately after, I grabbed my shoes and hit the streets for a run in the sun. I Threw on an Elevation podcast sermon called Frustrated Faith … and it was a little too relatable.
“The devil doesn’t build exterior prisons, he builds interior prisons.”
So we find ourselves locked in, scared to death that God’s not gonna do what He said He would.
“God may not live up to your expectations but He will always live up to His word.”
How quickly we forget what we have seen God do and fall into the trap of comparison and we are completely crippled.
Elijah was a powerhouse man of God. He prayed down fire from heaven. Defeated all the prophets of bail. You would think all of these experiences would make him unstoppable, but right after all of this he receives one letter of opposition from the queen and he forgets. He was afraid and ran, leaving his servant behind, going on alone and praying to die.
After all that? After all he had seen and experienced and a few days or weeks later he is locking himself in internal prisons of expectation, comparison, fear and doubt. And he is paralyzed.
And isn’t that what we do?
We forget what He has already done and we lock ourselves up in our invisible, interior prisons and get angry that things are not working out the way we thought they should.
The prison of expectation — it wasn’t supposed to be this way.
The prison of comparison — I’m not like them, I don’t belong.
The prison of fear and doubt — what if He doesn’t show up for me?
We believe the lies, lock ourselves in our paralyzing prisons and doubt our destiny.
“A PRISON PERSPECTIVE WILL ALWAYS CAUSE YOU TO DOUBT YOUR DESTINY”
It’s a humbling experience to reach out from this place. We don’t want to stay but we know how to get out.
Well, I’m here to tell you that the first step is to resist the temptation to withdraw and isolate.
After that awkward voice message to my tribe, first my heart was opened to hearing God’s voice. Then, my girls began to respond and speak life into the very areas God had been showing me.
Give this a read. A montage of the wise words that were spoken over me by the very women I compared myself to. They didn’t know about my word for the year. They didn’t know which nerves had been pinched or what God had been telling me. I couldn’t have articulated it if I tried. But there is such accuracy and wisdom in here that I know it was straight from the heart of God.
If you feel awkward, it’s a time to press in, not pull back. We want to speak life back into you, Twila. Talk to your heart, fall on your face and be honest with God and yourself. You walked away from the club the other night feeling beat up, dragged around a bit, stale. You felt like you didn’t belong. That’s what the devil is trying to tell you. That you don’t belong. But what I hear over your life is belonging. When we walk toward our destiny, the devil gets scared and the lies ramp up. “See? That night wasn’t as great for you as it was for everybody else, that’s cuz you don’t belong.” That’s what satan says. But it is a lie. Carrying the Presence with you is enough. That is a gift that you have, Twila. It’s not by what you say or what you do but by simply showing up that people are changed, that they feel God’s presence. The atmosphere is shifted, the darkness is lifted and the light shines in. The devil is terrified of you and the destiny before you, because God forbid that you find out exactly what that destiny is, because it is going to be explosive. So of course the devil is spewing filth all over you. You are good enough. No more striving, or needing to make things happen.
The key to unlocking your destiny is not more skills, training or resources.
It is the same key that unlocks the door of your internal prison.
The key out of the prison of expectation — grace.
The key out of the prison of comparison — belonging.
The keys out of the prison of fear and doubt — obedience and faith.
I’m still not pumped about going back to the club. There are parts of me that want to pull back and retreat from the tribe, but that will only lock me up tighter.
And I don’t care if it doesn’t look good on instagram. I don’t want a filtered and carefully cropped and edited life, fearful that someone will swipe too far to the right and see the truth. I want real life. These internal prisons are real and if we won’t acknowledge that we are living in them then they will continue to paralyze us and keep us from becoming free to pursue our destiny.
What’s the place that’s not easy for you to walk into? Where the atmosphere is heavy. Where you stick out like a sore thumb, completely out of place? What’s weighing heavily on you, paralyzing you, locking you in your prison?
I don’t know what giant door it is you need to walk through but what I do know, is that on the other side of it is your freedom. Sometimes you’ll open that door and the freedom will come pouring out. Other times you won’t make it past the entrance and still others you will stand bewildered and paralyzed. But the thing to celebrate is that you showed up, and just your presence in that place is powerful.
But don’t compare. Prepare.
Don’t retreat. Press in.
Don’t lock yourself up. Open yourself up.
It’s gonna take courage.
To once again approach the large steel doors, take a deep breathe and swing them open, stepping into a world where we don’t belong, but it doesn’t matter because we know we are called.
And on the other side of all that is life abundant. Not until we unlock the doors of our paralyzing prisons will we be able to walk freely into our God-given destiny.
written by Twila Erb, a member of our To.get.her outreach team