Kelley J. Leigh, Freelance Writer
Entering the Bat Cave
One of my dearest friends is an anti-trafficking die hard by profession. Her Matt Damon-ish husband travels regularly to Southeast Asia and coordinates covert investigation operatives in brothels and bars. They run an international coalition to rescue children sold as sex slaves. After a Life Overseas, the Parkers’ unlikely central office for rescuing children is in a quirky little regular Joe kind of town. Having them around feels like working at the same office with Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne, which all sounds very dramatic and enviable. But frankly, having social justice superheroes as friends comes with issues, like the constant nagging feeling that I am, in reality, a total social justice slacker—like Lois Lane standing outside the empty telephone booth wondering where Superman went. And that’s just lame.
The Bat Cave
I sip tea and lean on Laura Parker’s kitchen bar while she does dishes. I go first. My catch-up topics consist of sleepy American issues regularly seen on Lifetime or The Oprah Winfrey Network. I ramble about marriage, getting kids through college, and my internal struggles with church (don’t yawn). Then it’s her turn. She updates me on her three kids, moving pains, then details about The Exodus Road. My brain searches for the mental hard drive folder marked “Covert Operations.”
I need warm-up time before entering this Bat Cave. First, Alfred greets me politely at the front door of the Wayne mansion. Then we wait for the sliding library wall to open so we can descend the secret stairs. I must leave behind a world of wealthy subdivisions before I can reorient to the space where injustice is fought.
Laura and I situate ourselves on living room couches where she shares details of a locked brothel, virginity sold at a high price, an exposed ring of male pedophiles, and a little girl in a lineup of prostitutes who scribbled “Rescue Me” on a dollar bill. I forget to exhale and stir my tea unnecessarily. She waits. I set down my cup and remember to breathe. We sit in the absorbing silence where no words come.
Slave in My Hand
Different setting, same conversation. Flames spit sparks from a backyard fire pit. A cluster of my friends huddle in a lawn chair circle under a dark winter sky. We listen to Matt’s most recent update from the red-light district. He flips through his picture directory and passes around his cell phone. She looks like a fifth grader. Slick, beautiful Asian hair and the face of a grade-school niece or daughter. Situated on a happy western man’s lap, she wears the tentative smile of someone who knows how to avoid a beating, or worse.
Burning logs fall in on each other with a thud. Flying embers mix with snowflakes.
In my hand I hold an expensive American phone and the face of an enslaved girl. Both. Together in one place. Wealth and poverty, freedom and bondage, all coexisting in a palm of peace where war should rage. And the incongruity feels tight, uncomfortable, like skin that’s shrunk two sizes too small. Again we enter the pause that comes with the unreconciled gap between realities.
Seed of Justice
I think an embryo of justice resides in the conversational chasm between slavery and the suburbs. I have found a grain of power in the reason-to-pause. In the long distance between the last word of one topic and the first word of the next is a critical moment of decision, a choice: Change the subject or stay in it. Ignore or engage.
Have you experienced it?
Those few moments after . . .
the heart-wrenching YouTube clip.
the unbearable story of a slavery survivor.
the unthinkable documentary.
A sharp seed of justice embeds where you’ve interacted with deep injustice and don’t know what to do. That moment of holy unrest is a seed culture of justice, the abrasive grain in the oyster where sand begins to turn to pearl . . . where thought germinates into action. There, we stand at the mouth of the Bat Cave and ask, “What now? What next?”
Here’s the deal: I started watering those seeds. And in the process, I decided it doesn’t matter who gets to be Batman or who is Alfred. We are all in this together.
My former social justice slackitude stemmed from my belief in superheroes. Those people do this stuff, not me. “I’ll just leave them to their supernatural business and check in on them every once in a while.” However, I now see them simply as ordinary people who have followed God, one harrowing step at a time. They didn’t start out as superheroes. Back alley brothels and hidden cameras only entered the story after a long series of small choices stepped them toward the bat cave. It’s the same for all of us. After the smallest pause and question, “What now? What next?” is always an invitation. It’s a Jesus invitation. “Follow me.” Steps which we obediently follow inevitably lead us to love God or love people in powerful and unimaginable ways.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
One turn at a time. One seed of holy unrest, watered. One humble step. One choice to say yes to the one true God who has a heart to rescue us all, one soul at a time.
Start small. Water the seed. Let it grow.
Be a hero in this larger story.
Join the rescue.
Kelley J. Leigh, Freelance WriterKelley lives in a quirky little mountain town in Colorado. At mid-life, she decided to leave behind full-time marketing and consulting work to focus on writing. The rest of her time goes to her husband, four sons, and the recovery of lost car keys. Someday she hopes to own an old scooter and embarrass her sons by wearing the very dorky helmet around town.
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