In Sandra Bullock’s new movie, The Blind Side, her character Leigh Anne Touhy has a scene where she has just fixed up the guest bedroom for Michael Oher, the 17-year old black young man her family has taken in off the street. There is just a hint of a look of self-satisfaction on her face — she’s doing a “good deed.” As Michael looks around the room, slack-jawed, he says, “I never had one before.”
“A bedroom of your own?” Leigh Anne asks, expecting a “yes,” thus confirming her good deed.
“A bed,” Michael replies, and you see in her face that Leigh Anne’s world has just been turned upside down. Living in her half-million dollar house, driving her $100K 7-series BMW, she knows there’s a world out there that’s not as privileged as hers. But she has parameters for that world, boundaries that define just how unprivileged “unprivileged” is. Michael shatters those boundaries, and she has to go to another room and sit down for a few minutes to collect herself.
Leigh Anne was blind-sided by a reality that was quite different than the reality she had constructed.
It happens to all of us eventually, in various degrees. For me, it’s happened a few times as we’ve walked with our church as it’s become involved in the issue of sex trafficking.
First, “sex trafficking” looks rather pedestrian on the page. We had identified it early on as one of the most “unjust” of the justice issues we looked at, but I know that for me at least it was a concept more than a reality, or said differently, it was an antiseptic reality that had little relation to the reality faced by the young (as young as five years old) girls who lived in it.
My first wake-up call happened when I read a book by a sex-trafficking survivor. She spoke of being raped seven to ten times a night and more (sometimes by groups of men), of watching a fellow victim shot in the head while she and other girls were forced to watch, of policemen being perpetrators instead of protectors. This reality wasn’t pedestrian or antiseptic, it was real and raw and disturbing. I was blind-sided by the depths of the depravity.
My second happened in Cambodia a couple of months ago on a trip our church took to investigate how we can be involved on the ground. We were at a ministry that runs an after-school program for kids in the town. There was a roomful of kids that looked to be from first grade to middle school (in U.S. parlance). They were singing along with one of our group who was playing the guitar, and in general looked like a roomful of happy kids anywhere. As we watched, the director of the ministry running the program turned to one of our team and said, “Probably 80% of these girls are still being trafficked.” We were blind-sided by the persistence of evil.
But in that same town, we visited families who had been healed, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, by the power of the Holy Spirit. We saw the local church active in its work of rescue, redemption, and reconciliation. We saw a community being changed by the power of Jesus in the face of obstacles that would cripple a church ten times its size in the United States. We were blind-sided by God’s glory in a dark and dirty world.
What has blind-sided you today?