Wearing a dress everyday in the month of December, to take a selfie, to bringing attention to those taken into slavery was getting old. Not that the cause was getting old, but my enthusiasm was waning. After two weeks I was becoming disenchanted with the whole Dressember fundraiser and I was longing for my comfortable jeans. But at the crest of my discontent, I received an email from a woman who I had only met briefly a few weeks before.
I have been following you and your Dressember postings. I have a secret only my husband knows about. Your passion for those caught in human trafficking gives me the feeling that I am ready to tell this secret, and I thought I might share my story with you.
As I read her story I was stunned by the path her life had taken. She seemed so normal to have lived a life so – abnormal. With her permission, here is Monica’s story.
“The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.”–C.S. Lewis
I have many friends who are engaged in the fight against human trafficking. They are working in specific ways to find freedom and justice for lives in bondage to the evil of selling flesh as a commodity.
Since 2009 there has been a campaign called Dressember asking women to wear a dress every day of the month in solidarity and awareness for freedom for women. In 2013, Dressember took on new meaning: opposing the worldwide trafficking and exploitation of women. In its first year as a fundraising campaign, Dressember aligned with International Justice Mission, a human rights organization that works to rescue victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression. Those who participate in Dressember are supporting the abolition of modern day slavery. In its first year of fundraising, Dressember had 1,233 registered participants in 32 countries across 6 continents who collectively raised over $165,000. 100% of the funds raised in 2013 went directly to International Justice Mission.
I only own two dresses that fit me and rarely leave my pajamas so I’m not a great candidate for this kind of fashion statement, but I love the heart behind it. The stories of souls sold over and over again in dark alleys and the back seats of cars, at truck stops and on the street corner all the way to five star hotel rooms make us squirm. We are repulsed by the pimps and the johns. In honesty we are also appalled at the prostitute. Except for maybe the glamorization of this life in the film Pretty Woman where happy ever after is the resolution or the Reba McEntyre song, “Fancy” where she eventually ends up in an “elegant townhouse flat” we would like to forget it is happening in our cities and towns and around the world. When innocent children are involved there is outrage. In most cases we find both parties culpable. It’s just too messy with too many variables to wrap our hearts around. And so we don’t.
As I write I am listening to my dear Christa Well’s song “Coming to the Light” I remember hiking in Tucson earlier this year while this played on my iPod. I knew I would eventually put my entire life in the light. It is the book that comes before “Gauntlet with a Gift”, and upcoming book, but will be published after I tell my story. It is hard. It is painful in ways my physical suffering pales in comparison. Most of you know me from late 2009 on when I began blogging. I’ve given hints and guesses about what came before, but most, not even my family, know the full story about where I was rescued from. Many of my Team Danica readers ( a blog I formerly wrote my story about my illness) questioned how I could hold tight to a faith in a good God in such ongoing tragedy. My own story of human trafficking answers this question.
My God has always had a heart for the harlot. I was reminded of this as Unwrapping the Greatest Gift brought us to Rahab’s house in our Advent worship as a family. It was my night to read. I stumbled over the word “prostitute” as I shared with my husband and girls the story of men of God hiding out in the home of a whore. Before she even knew what it meant she begged them to remember her and her family when they came back to conquer Jericho. She listened to their instruction to leave a red cord hanging from her window. She trusted this God they spoke of and obeyed. She longed for a life outside of her sin and sadness. God didn’t just save her and her family, He had a plan to bring the woman with the scarlet letter a prince to marry. He set her in the documented lineage of our God made man. She was the great, great grandmother of King David. Ann writes about God’s upside down love.
God can show Himself and His huge uncontainable love wherever, whenever, to whomever. High walls and hard hearts can’t stop His love from coming. sin and badness can’t stop His love from coming. The love of God can come over any wall, can open the door of any heart, can find anyone, anywhere, in anything. Rahab couldn’t stop smiling. God loved her at her darkest and baddest, and He held her with the biggest and grandest and greatest love . . . Jesus, who painted a red rope with His very own love, with His very own blood, and gives Himself to you like a red rope, whispers, “No matter what you’ve done, hold on–I love you, and I’ve got you.”
I was a prostitute. A smart, conservative, pretty and well-educated woman floundering between college and grad school with no real place to come home to. My parents had moved and were in distress. I harbored so much pain from the church. I was longing for any kind of family but mine. I hinted at my sexual assault on Team Danica. This took me from being “pure” to anything but. I already had many encounters with strangers and boyfriends as I drank my way through lonely nights and wandered the streets around my university like most undergraduates girls do. Every girl is looking for love. Finding it at a frat party or in a bar is not likely, but this is where we can numb ourselves to the point of letting someone take from us something God meant to be sacred. Once it’s gone the free fall of shame begins.
I worked for a man who owned a travel agency. I took a legitimate job with him selling vacations, mostly to Mexico. It didn’t take long for him to realize I was on my own. He began to invite me into his social circle. He asked me to party with them. It was then I realized he was in fact a drug dealer. I became part of the package he sold to friends and customers. Because I wore pearls and was smart and well-mannered I was very different from any girl he had used before. I had formed such a hard shell around my heart I could not feel the pain of what was happening or even recognize it for what it was. I worked in a “legitimate” business for cash pay. I partied with my boss and his friends and used cocaine. I was promiscuous. I honestly did not realize for some time that I was part of the “deal.” I began to realize it was a job I couldn’t just quit. Until recently I still explained him in some kind of benevolent light even though I looked over my shoulder in fear for years and years. He created a false sense of family that protected me as long as I participated in the dysfunction. All of this was happening in a picturesque college town sick with an epidemic of prostitution. There was a little black book of wealthy businessmen, judges, law enforcement officials and even men in the leadership of the college implicated. Girls from good middle class homes were the primary targets.
God rescued me. God redeemed me. I believe so strongly in the power of Christ to completely transform hearts and lives because He did this for me. I was Rahab. In the months before I met my husband God was working to free me from the shackles of my former life. I was desperate for real human love. I was longing for a safe place to lay my head and rest. Dan and his beautiful home several hours away from where I lived became my refuge. Very quickly I moved my entire life there. I was finally free. Dan was my prince. I didn’t know it then. He didn’t know it then. God was cultivating a soil for Grace to blossom and grow in. After I ran away I learned of the arrest and imprisonment of my former boss. It was another reason not to tell my story out loud or publish a memoir detailing this underground life. Dan and I did not begin our relationship loving God or caring about His plan, but God was still working all these things for good. This is amazing love.
During our Advent devotional I read the word “prostitute.” I added my own narrative in a small way by telling my girls out loud I had been a very bad and sad woman just like Rahab. I could see Dan giving me that look. The expression that says, “You’re saying something you can’t take back. They are too young. They don’t understand this.” But God did not hold back, did He? Story after story in the Bible tells us about the most evil kind of sin and the people all tangled up in it. In the same narrative He points to the only true liberation from this mess we’ve made.
She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.
My scarlet rope. My liberation.
My sin. My salvation.
My hurt. My hope.
These are not the stories you tell at a ladies Bible study at church. These are not things you want anyone to ever know about you. But this is what I’ve learned. I’m not alone. Sitting in the pew on Sunday are women with deep seeded shame about sexual abuse, drugs, alcohol, abortion and affairs. They are starving themselves, stuffing themselves and cutting where no one can see. They should be free, but they are not. This is what my Bible tells me about women like us. We are the best vessels for Grace to shine through. All the broken pieces put back together through God’s saving love highlight exactly why He had to come and walk with us. Jesus was the guy who would walk up to a harlot and tell her to go and sin no more. He is the guy who before the beginning of the great big story determined a prostitute named Rahab would leave a scarlet rope of hope hanging in her window. He would not just forgive her. He would not just give her a fresh start. He would bring her a husband who cherished her as if he was her first love, and He would make her part of the root of the stump that grew the tree where Jesus was born to die so we might LIVE.
There’s not a day of my life I don’t thank Him for my liberation in Jesus. My sin abounded. Grace abounded more.
Next time you put on a dress don’t just think about the ones who are lost.
Remember the ones who are found.
God is not sleeping in this pain and sadness. He is setting captives free, and He is calling us to tell our stories.
Rahab’s story matters.
My story matters.
Your story matters.
Photography by Cindee Snider Re. Used with permission.
Monica Kaye Snyder is voracious reader. She is a blogger, a writer and maybe even an author. Most days you’ll find her curled up on her butter yellow sofa wrapped in a white cable knit throw snuggled with her Yorkie Poo, Twixie. There are always books and journals piled high on her right, a cup of tea or coffee on the table on her left and a piece of pottery holding beautiful pens with a stack of stamps and stationary leaning there. She reads at least one poem every day. Music is what feelings sound like in her heart and home. Observing and making art is as essential as food and water to keeping her alive. Light is her muse and darkness is her hell.
She is rescued and redeemed. She believes at least six impossible things before breakfast. She knows telling the truth out loud is the only path to personal peace. She continues a long journey of chronic illness and daily physical suffering. She’s seen real miracles happen and holds on to Christ’s Hope as an anchor for her soul while living in great pain. She is wife to Dan and mother to Delaney Jayne and Danica Jean. She knows for sure if she does nothing else well in her life, this will matter and be enough.
Latest posts by Diane W. Bailey (see all)
- What God Can Do with A Shattered Heart - September 5, 2022
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Brave doesn’t begin to describe you and the sharing of your story. We do not all have a story this dramatic, but we all have a story and you beautifully share of the redemption and grace we can experience through Jesus. I love this part:
My scarlet rope. My liberation.
My sin. My salvation.
My hurt. My hope.
Yes!! Thank you for sharing.
One of my favorite windows into the personal interaction of Jesus with a sinner is when the prostitute comes to a place where He was eating. When she realized He could forgive her she washed His feet with her tears. His words, “Your sins are forgiven. … Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:48, 50) Forgiveness AND HEALING are at the core of Jesus seeking and receiving sinners. Soli Deo Gloria!
“God is not sleeping in this pain and sadness. He is setting captives free, and He is calling us to tell our stories.”
Thank you for sharing your story, your hope, our hope. xoxo
God is working in souls and lives just like during His earthly ministry. We must tell the stories and not lose heart! While we were still sinners Christ died for us! Amazing LOVE.
In tears over this post. Diane, thank you for sharing it here. Monica, oh friend, thank you, thank you for your bravery! I am praying right now that your story would be the catalyst for healing in the hearts of many.
I cannot fathom what you went through on some levels, but I can relate to how close I came on others. Things in my past which I can scarcely think of. I’m currently going through EMDR therapy due to possible PTSD, acute anxiety & other things. In these session, God always shows up. Father, Son, Holy Spirit, they play different roles. Recently, I returned to an incident of Truth & Dare in 7th grade which opened a chasm of shame. This line? “Once it’s gone the free fall of shame begins.” I can so relate.
We’ve returned to that incident a few times. Jesus showed up. I was bound in a straight-jacket. Compelled to do what was expected of me. In this session (vision), Jesus cut off the jacket of shame. Not a slow unbuckling, but a clear cut straight through.
He showed me clothed with his robe of righteousness. Free flowing. Safe. Restful. Joyful.
I will continue to stand by you in prayer friend. I wish we’d had more time to connect but I am glad we had at least a little time. Blessings on your journey.
Jolene, I believe we will cross paths again and build relationship. I wanted a week with each dear woman at Laity! Thank you for sharing part of your story here. “Safe” was an important word for me. I was truly in fear for a long time. Christ was my refuge and hiding place while working in my heart the courage to lay this in the light. A new measure of healing and peace comes in baring our truth. I love you sister and pray for you!
I’m weeping. Monica I am so proud of you for sharing. I’ve been praying for Human Trafficking for nearly 5 years and it’s stories like these that continue to shine hope in the dark places. Ye shame so many women feel holds them captive. As the rest of us hear your story I’m praying that God releases you and anoints you in mighty ways for the work he has planned for you.
Jen, Thank you. He has granted so much healing in these past weeks since I quietly slipped my story to Diane. One of the most beautiful gifts of salvation is how a loving God rewrites our sin and sadness into lights shining His Grace. LOVE.
This is so beautiful. Beauty comes from ashes, God does restore. We all have a story no one knows and at some point in time, just as God opened your opportunity, he will for others, and as others see and hear your authentic words, they will in turn see their own potential of truth. I believe God is just beginning to use ‘your story’ for good. Blessings to you…
Yes, The overwhelming prayer of my heart is for others “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ!” (Ephesians 3:18)
Wow. Thank you, Monica (and Diane). Your story is a powerful testimony to the tender intimacy of God, the sufficiency of the cross, and redemptive power of grace. I know there are many people who need the hope you offer here, and I pray they find their way to reading this. May the Lord cover you with His peace and keep you from any fear. Light conquers darkness. Always. Love to you.
Thank you Jeanne. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” (I John 4:18) There is no more condemnation in our Jesus! Oh the freedom this brings for Grace to abound! You have been in my heart so very much since sitting with your words this past weekend. LOVE.
Monica – indeed, you are not alone. Far from it. I’m sure that through your sharing today, you’ve loosed the ties that bind others to lies. You’ve done a lot to remind me of my freedom in Christ.
May He bless you as you continue to shine His light.
FREE INDEED. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2 Much love!
These are the stories we NEED to hear, these are the words that bring healing and restoration to those who believe they have NO VALUE because of what they’ve done and what has been done to them! Thank you, thank you, thank you for being so brave!
Setting captives free, that’s what it’s all about!!
That’s my hearts desire, and my hope in telling my own story! God wants to use it all — the good, the bad and the really ugly!
God bless you Monica!
Lanette, Throughout Scripture God has talked long and often about the harlot. I’m so glad he did. Hosea is one of my favorite books of the Bible. Listen to this verse, “You must dwell as mine for many days; you shall not play the harlot, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.” (Hosea 3:3b) This is Hosea’s plea to his wife Gomer who committed adultery and became a destitute prostitute. He pursued her in her sin because he loved her without condition. This love restored her life. God uses this story to point to His continual pursuit of His people no matter what! This passage from Hosea 5 and 6 is the loving way God calls even the most wandering and wicked, “Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn, that he may heal us; he has stricken, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know, let us press on to know the Lord; his going forth is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” PRESSING ON!
LOVE that Monica! One of my all-time favorite books is Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers, if you haven’t read it you should! It’s storyline is loosely based on Hosea. It’s a beautiful, life-changing story of redemption and the love of our Savior!
thank you for being brave and sharing your story. you rock girl!
He makes me brave! Thank you for praying over this story. LOVE.
Monica, I am grateful for your story, for His outrageous redemption, and His mercy and unfailing love. He has made beauty from such a hopeless place. Grateful to know you!! I love you.
“Outrageous!” Not a day passes that I don’t wake up and don’t wonder at His beautiful plan to take the scandalous sinners and rescue them for His glory! He would have left the ninety-nine to rescue me. Praying for you in these last days before your Compassion trip. I’m blessed to know and be known by you.
Monica, oh how I wish I could hug you right now. You are my hero. Thank you for being brave and sharing.
Every bit our courage came from His great love! Happy Birthday dear one!
Thank you for being strong and courageous Monica….as I was reading your story I felt God’s powerful love towards you, and was reminded of the verse that says those that have been forgiven much, love much.
I LOVE it how God redeems our stories and uses them for great good.
Always, you will have a heart of compassion for people caught up in prostitution and it would be typical of God to use you as a powerful magnet to draw others from it, into the arms of God.
May God strengthen you with might in your inner [wo]man in His service and bless you abundantly with every GOOD thing, and continue the healing work He does so well, in our heart of hearts.
With HUGE appreciation for your courage in sharing this story…… Mary another forgiven woman.
Mary, YES! In Luke 7 Simon and the Disciples were outraged Jesus would let such an unclean woman touch him. His response to Simon was the story of a man who had two debtors: One owed 500 silver pieces, the other fifty. Neither could pay so the man forgave both. Jesus asked Simon which of the debtors would love the man more. Simon rightly replied that the one with the largest debt would love the most. Oh Jesus, He knew we understand best through stories! LOVE.
When grace is known, at the raw real levels where sin has left a gash, a seed is planted. A belief that no matter what God is real…His love is real. I see that here. What a story of hope in redemption and a life rescued because God doesn’t let go of us. He leaves a way, always a way to Him. Thank you for giving a glimpse of His grace. ♡
Our faith is in a God who forgives and “no never” counts our sins against us. Amazing love ever shining a light for His glory! Thank you for celebrating with me. The shackles are off. He is healing and restoring.
You have a beautiful testimony. Thank you for having such courage and being so brave.
I found myself returning to this post.. re-reading it in the stillness of my home while my children are this time at school.
Your words…your journey…the depths you had to go to to share your story. I’m moved by more than just your courage.
God is using your voice to bring light to an area often hidden by shame. Your voice offers hope to so many bound by the lies. You speak of the redemption and healing that comes through Jesus. “There’s not a day of my life I don’t thank Him for my liberation in Jesus. My sin abounded. Grace abounded more.”
Thank you for your sensitivity to that spiritual pull to speak out. Today I celebrate the mighty work God continues to do in you today which brings Him great glory. delight.
One of the most beautiful and past understanding ways of God is to take a woman like me, completely given over to sin and sadness, and create in me a new nature. Do I believe Him that old things are passed away? Day by day He is loving me into this sweet resting in complete and utter forgiveness.