People want love. And nightlife offers it. Or so we think. There’s an enchantment to nightlife. Glimmer. Attraction. Allure. It can pull you in like a magnet. And grab you before you realize you’re taken.
Halloween landed this weekend so me, my roommate and friends went out.
Strolling through uptown with cars barely inching their way forward through the crowded street, people in costumes were all lining the sidewalks waiting to get into the bars and dance clubs. Music sounding into the night autumn air and the desire for this thing called “living” manifesting itself in all kinds of enchanting ways. So it seems.
The lines were long and so we walked around the streets, looking at all the fun costumes.
And then I started to remember an experience I had several years ago.
An uncomfortable experience.
An experience I’ll probably never forget but has stirred my empathy concerning this whole nightlife scene.
Several years ago in 2009 I travelled back to Prescott Valley, Arizona to visit my friends.
It was their graduation night from Bradshaw Mountain High, the school I went to before I moved away to North Carolina, and my friend Hattie told me they had been planning a getaway to Phoenix. She said we would go that night after everyone was asleep and that her uncle would be driving us.
Being the naïve self that I was at 18 years old I thought, cool, yeah let’s go.
We took a short nap and then around 11pm, Hattie told me we were leaving.
She told me to bring my ID.
We got ready and us three girls slipped out the door with her uncle, getting into his truck to go up to Phoenix. (As I look back on it, I don’t see how I was so blind to let someone I didn’t even know drive me and my friends to Phoenix in the middle of the night. Just shows how easy it is for adolescent minds to get into problematic situations. If you’re a parent, have some compassion on your kids when they get into trouble.)
We cranked up the music in his truck and Hattie, being her usual comical self, couldn’t stop laughing and cutting up the entire way up there.
Then Hattie told me where we were going.
She said we were going to a club.
A club?, I thought, I can’t go to a…club? hmmm, well, this is their graduation and nobody’s around to tell me not to and her uncle’s with us, so it should be okay.
I was getting kind of excited as we got closer and closer to Phoenix, passing through Cordus Junction, then Black Canyon, then Anthem, then Mesa.
Then we arrived.
As we pulled in the parking lot, I noticed it was all men walking in.
A sign that read Le Girls was overhead. We walked inside and the guys at the front asked to see our ID’s. There was a cover charge but her uncle paid it and we were led inside to some chairs that were circling around a platform where one of many girls were dancing provocatively.
I was shocked. I realized what was happening.
No wonder he was so willing to drive us up there in the middle of the night and then pay for the cover charge and any drinks we wanted.
He had brought us to a strip club.
And there were naked and almost-naked ladies everywhere.
Platforms were scattered around, as the ladies were dancing with tall high heels.
I was so shocked that he had brought us there.
I didn’t understand why we were there but I didn’t know what to do.
Youth group never prepared me for the “friend’s uncle takes you and your friends to a strip club” experience.
And Hattie, being the jokester she is, just could not stop laughing.
Me and Jessica just sipped on our Shirley temples.
We sat there awkwardly while looking around the room at all this bewilderment around us.
The men sitting in the chairs watching the girls dance were looking at us, probably wondering why 3 teenage girls were in a strip club for men.
Then I saw the face of the man sitting to the left of me.
He was a middle aged man, probably in his late 30’s with a wad of cash in his hand. He was throwing dollar bills on the platform right in front of where he was sitting so that the girl on our platform would come over to him.
His face was like stone.
He wouldn’t make eye contact with her.
There was no emotion in his face even though she was dancing for him.
I thought it was strange that he looked so sad and empty.
He didn’t look all mesmerized by the lady who was getting pretty sensual in front of him.
But he kept throwing dollar bills.
Every time she walked away he would start to throw more and motion for her to come back.
I didn’t understand it because he didn’t look all happy and giddy like the other men from how she was dancing for him.
But he wouldn’t let her leave.
He kept throwing more money and more money.
He wanted her to stay with him.
He wanted her to choose him.
He wanted to be loved by her.
But he didn’t feel loved.
He looked empty.
And my heart was breaking for him.
I don’t know if I’ve ever felt more broken for someone in my whole life as I did in that moment.
God gave me compassion that night.
Compassion for that man in the strip club.
I saw brokenness on his face that I had never seen before.
No amount of pleasure was enough for him.
Ever since then, the way I look at the whole nightclub/strip club scene is very different.
What I see is this:
Going to the strip club is not the root problem here…
People are really hurting inside.
At root, it’s about people feeling unloved and in search of love that they lack.
At root, it’s about people feeling empty and in search of something that will fill them.
But it never does.
We left and drove back to Prescott Valley that night. And Hattie’s family ended up finding out the next day that he had taken us up there to the strip club. More than anything though, my heart hurts for that man I saw, for Hattie’s uncle that took us, and for anyone who goes to a strip club. I wish I could make all this pain in the world stop so that we wouldn’t need to run to it.
Do I think it’s okay to go to a strip club?
Of course not.
But that’s not the point.
We need to understand why people go there in the first place.
People just want to be loved. They want to give love. They want to feel something. Even if it’s just in the moment. And nightlife offers that. It offers a place where humans can feel those things immediately. We are broken people who need love and life so bad. And when sin is present, a person can give in to all kinds of sinful things. It shouldn’t be any surprise.
Sexual sin seems to simmer as a result of not feeling loved and consequently searching for a way to satisfy that sexual hunger ourselves.
But we can’t do that.
We have to find a way to let God satisfy that longing for love that we feel.
And sometimes it’s hard, because I don’t always feel loved by God in a strong, immediate way like I do when someone gives me attention.
So I have to ask myself… what is true? What is real love? This feeling that I have?? Or the truth that God is beyond my feeling???
I don’t have all the answers to this problem. I really don’t.
But I do know that we need the real, tangible love of Jesus.
And no, not on a tract! Tracts are lazy evangelism!
We need to love people well.
Be a friend.
Care for people’s souls.
Because if we’re honest, we all have the same heart issue that could make us the one inside that strip club.
We are all sinners before God.
Whether you’re a guy or a girl…doesn’t matter. We all want love and when we feel broken and needy of what we don’t have, I think you know what your body is capable of. I don’t have to tell you that. I know I don’t have to tell myself. We all indulge in sexual sin that is just as equally offensive to God. And we need to have compassion on one another so that the love of God can catalyze a desire for change.
I want to look at the nightlife scene through the lens of compassion. I know I struggle with heavy sins too.
So I pray that we will stop cursing the strip club and start loving those inside it.
Love them towards Christ.
What does that look like?
What about this…
-There’s a man who set up a coffee truck in the parking lot of a strip club.
People would pull in to go in the strip club and he would serve them coffee outside.
He would make lattes, cappuccinos, espressos, anything they wanted. Every night around 10pm he would set up shop and stay until the wee hours of the morning. He would play music and set up chairs for people to sit. He would talk to them and ask them about their day. He would talk to the girls that worked at the strip club asking them about their life outside of work and about their families. For a year he did this. After a while, he knew the names of all the strip club employees and the men who frequented. He also knew their stories. He knew what was going on in their lives.
He had been praying for them.
They would ask him why he gave his coffee for free.
He would always answer the same: “It’s cold outside and I figured you might need a cup of coffee.”
This man gets it.
He knows how to love well. He never condemned them for their involvement in the strip club. He knows that if he wants to gain their respect and trust, he has to meet a physical need first. And being a cold windy city, especially at night, he thought free coffee might be a good way to start relationships with the people going in and out of the strip club. A way to show them the love of Christ.
And soon, all of the men and the girls, who worked there, started to ask him how he pays for the coffee.
He would always answer the same: “God provides it.”
“God provides it?”, they would ask.
They didn’t understand why God would provide coffee for them since they were living a lifestyle that the “church” would condemn.
But the man said that God didn’t condemn them.
He said, “God wants you to be warmed and told me to give you coffee.”
Soon, all of these men and women started to ask him more and more about God and almost the whole staff of the strip club ended up coming to know Jesus. Now that would be an amazing story. That’s what it looks like to love well.-
I pray we will love one another without condemnation. I pray we will ask God to draw people to Himself through gentleness and compassion. I pray that we will realize that we are all hurting human beings and we all are filthy before God. We are all sinful and disgusting in His sight without Jesus taking our place. We all need the same grace. God, may Your Spirit fall and show people what Your love feels like. Give us Your real love, God. Lord, help us to love one another just as You have loved us, in tender kindness and consistent love. No matter what.Thank You for Your compassion on us.
“Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.”
-1 John 4:11-