The Girl in the Green Dress (the year of gathering)

“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace…”

The prayer is part of our Sunday morning rhythm at church. Chances are, you’ve read it or heard someone recite it.

Most folks give St. Francis credit for writing the prayer, though to be honest, no one is exactly sure who first uttered the words or took pen to paper to offer them to the rest of us as a gift.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen.

Though I’ve recited it hundreds of times, each phrase always reflects like a mirror on my soul. I consider every one as my mouth carefully forms the words.

“…Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love…”

I don’t know about you, but I’m still working on what it means to be an instrument of the Lord’s peace. Not mine, mind you. But His. Not to be a peacekeeper, but rather a peacemaker.

To console actively, to love actively—and always, to understand.

The word has such rich meaning, doesn’t it? To understand is to be thoroughly familiar with, to fully grasp not only the meaning of something but its significance, implications, and subtleties as well—its character and nature.

Even as I come to understand more about life and eternity and the Father’s divine kiss on humanity’s wounds, I long to still understand more.

And the memories are flooding today in about a girl—the girl in the green dress. Perhaps I should prepare you. This is a story about understanding. But it is not sweetness and light.

It is a confession of misunderstanding and slowly learning to understand and how everything changes in the midst of it all. Because, like prayer, confession is good for us. In the book of James, we are told that healing comes with confession.

And this is a story about that healing.

I’ve heard that the summers in St Petersburg, Russia, are beautiful—with only four hours of darkness, the city comes alive with color and music and dancing. But that isn’t the St Petersburg that floods my memories. Every visit there for me has been in winter. Her palette is muted with columns of steam and clouds that rage against a sun that appears only for brief moments. Color aggressively punches through the gray, reminding the world she is not really hibernating at all—she’s just cloaking her colors for a season. It’s those colors that are painted on my heart.

Especially green.

You see, green is the color of a life disregarded. Green is the color of a heart that should have been noticed and might have been rescued. But instead, just a few years ago, it became the color of ridicule—comedic relief for naïve fools.

I first saw her, a girl no more than 16 sitting in the corner of a hotel lobby bar—her steely eyes darting quickly to survey the landscape. She had on a short, tight green dress with thigh-high black boots. She was disheveled and tired and hardened, and her smoky eye makeup was smudged.

There’s a picture in your mind of her, isn’t there?

Someone said they had seen her the day before, in the same outfit.  With a quick conversation on a cell phone, she was gone. She appeared again from time to time, alway surveying—and always disappearing.

You see her movements, don’t you?

As a group of folks sat in the lobby to send messages of hope back to friends and family in the United States, proudly sharing our stories of how we had provided humanitarian aid to poor orphans and how we had cared for those thrown away by society, we scoffed at the young girl in the green dress.

We knew what she was doing.

We called her a whore.

Though your word choice may be different, you had a word chosen for her.

In our self-righteousness, we condemned her.

I condemned her.

That was then.

I know better now.

Green dresses are wrapped around the God-breathed reality of flesh and bone frailty.

I now know and understand that the statistics aren’t promising for young adults who have no place to call home. Without a safety net, eight of every ten girls aging out of orphanages in Russia will offer their bodies as a way to fill their bellies and have a place to sleep, caught in the vile web of human trafficking. I know now those darting eyes were searching to be seen, longing for help. I know the green dress was a uniform of shame and pain. I’ve seen the vans filled with green dresses going to hotel after hotel to tend to the dark needs of visiting businessmen.

I know now and understand the story is bigger than a lobby bar in a single country. I’ve cradled young women in places around the world who have been robbed of choice and dignity. I’ve watched young men weep as they long to be seen as real. As human.

I’ve come face to face with my own history of abuse, of the voices that told me not to say anything that might do damage to our family name. And I’ve learned to embrace fully this woman who is filled with gumption and grace and yet still flinches a bit when gentle breezes hit the scars of her past.

I’ve learned to see the girl—in the green dress.

I know now that outward appearance rarely tells the real story. And I’ve listened to so many stories. They’re written on my heart. I’ve shared some with you, in captions and articles and books. But there are more.

I’ve witnessed what happens when uncompromising love is lavished on a hungry soul. I’ve seen miracles. I’ve lived them. That’s why I advocate for the orphaned and vulnerable. That’s why I believe in being a safe space. That’s why I will keep telling stories that change stories.

That’s why I continue to hope.

If only I knew then what I know now, I would hold that girl. And I would whisper such love to her.

“…Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love…”
In the steel grey of St Petersburg, I pray no more girls will ever have to wear the green dress of disregard. I pray for those called to the rescue and redemption of girls with darting eyes. I pray for “you are worthy” to be engraved on the hearts of the discarded. And I pray for the “we” – that we will know better.
And to you, precious girl in the green dress, I apologize. I pray someone saw the God-breathed reality of flesh and bone frailty within you. I pray you were rescued.

So, what is it that you now know? And what understanding do you still long to have? Who is it that you need to really see? Who is it you need to love?
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About Ronne Rock

Helping you hold on to what is real and true.

We're in this together, and I am for you. I secure road signs with a hammer of hope, and clear the debris so they can be seen. Call me your spiritual aunty, the one who you can trust with the hard conversations. I am your encourager. I walk and keep walking. Cheer and keep cheering. I invest, dive deep, and cherish the stories being written in the lives of women like you who long to believe restoration is a reality on earth as it is in heaven. God holds the pen in those stories, and He delights in you.  I OFFER REAL HOPE FOR YOU, PURPOSE-WEARY WARRIOR. You'll love One Woman Can Change the World: Reclaiming Your God-Designed Influence and Impact Right Where You Are. It's available wherever books are sold. I'm honored to be represented by Credo Communications.

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