Have you ever decided to walk instead of drive? It can be quite revealing. Before leaving your own street you find sidewalk hedges containing entire worlds of activity. In you car with the air-conditioned just right it’s easy to barrel right through life. Walking you become aware of the sweet smell of a rose, the way the sunlight is caught in a drop of dew and contains the full spectrum of color, the wind rustling the leaves of a eucalyptus overhead. Slowing down and paying attention brings life to your view, in a sense you awaken to the stunning world that has always been there. In a similar manner, the infinite details of God are also omnipresent, always available to awaken us, to shape the direction of our lives.
Of course, in the western world, which operates in a near absence of silence, everything vies for attention-Internet, television, movies, restaurants, soccer, cell phones, cars, Friday nights. It is a challenge to live a modern life while being available to listen to God. But as was the case with recording artist Natalie Grant, being sensitive to the Spirit within those distractions just might change our lives forever. And that kind of change can happen anywhere.
Unlikely Sacred Ground
Natalie Grant sat in her living room, wearing sweats, snacking in front of the T.V. when she was receptive enough to hear His voice through her favorite show, Law and Order. The show was based on the unfortunate reality of human trafficking, the sexual exploitation of children, and it showed that this was not just something that happens overseas, it happens in many of our own backyards.
“I can’t tell you why that particular show affected me the way that it did, but I couldn’t sleep,” Grant shares. “I stayed up all night and Googled human trafficking. I found out that over two million children in the world have been trafficked in the form of slavery for purposes of sexual exploitation. When I read that, I could barely see my computer screen because my eyes were filling with tears.”
Immediately, Grant was cast into the dangerous world of compassion. “It bothered me so much, that in the Church I hadn’t heard about it,” Grant admits. “So I started searching faith-based organizations that knew about slave trafficking, and a couple of groups popped up. One organization called Shared Hope International talked about rescuing girls in different countries, one of which was India. They offered private schooling and medication and drug rehabilitation-some of the children are addicted to drugs-and how ninety-five percent of the children have come to know Christ.”
The following day, Grant called Shared Hope and, in time, was invited to visit Bombay. However, in a strange twist of providence, just days before the trip to India, she underwent one of the most terrifying experiences a vocalist could have-she ruptured a vocal chord. A trauma such as that had the ability to change her voice and her future forever. So, she was under strict orders to contain every form of speaking, laughing, humming or singing.
“I am the type of person who consistently speaks before I think. Whenever I see something that challenges me or excites me or saddens me I just verbalize. I believe, not being able to talk about what I saw and felt was actually a gift. It made me digest everything so much deeper. All I could do was listen and write and see.
“In India, we went straight to the Red Light District where there was a brothel on every corner, and twelve and thirteen-year-old girls were out in the middle of the day with makeup on their faces, which was a sign that they were selling themselves.”
Grant traveled from Bombay to a place two-and-a-half hours outside the city called Village of Hope. Built by the two organizations Shared Hope and Teen Challenge, this was a place of safety for children who had been rescued from the horrors of what Grant had, just hours before, witnessed. “To see them-knowing that they had come from where I had just walked-to see them in their little school uniforms and going to class, it was life changing. There’s a song on my album called “Home,” which was written for the children that impacted me during that visit.”
She did more than just write about the experience. Grant explains, “I felt like God burdened me to start my own foundation.” Which she did. Her non-profit organization, the HOME foundation, is able to give one hundred percent of the money they raise directly to fighting human trafficking, “It’s completely my passion,” Grant says.
The way that we live our lives from moment to moment vastly impacts where we arrive in the end. It’s easy to get caught up in life at large, there are so many things to do, so many places to put our attention. In our busy world, it is essential to also remain receptive to God’s will. Of course this is a dangerous proposition, the still, small voice has a certain tendency to create active, thunderous results in our lives.
“It’s about constantly allowing yourself to be open and sensitive to the Spirit of God,” Grant concludes, “I mean, who finds God in Law Order? But I did. I had a spiritual awakening because of a television show. I never thought I would say television changed my life, but it did. We’re always looking for God in the big things, but God is very often in the small. I’ve never heard God speak audibly, so far be it for me to say that I know what the voice of God sounds like, but I know what the voice of God feels like. When I’m being obedient, I feel His voice. When I’m being obedient God gives me a song, takes me to India, or helps me reach my neighbor. It doesn’t have to be big. I’ve been reminded about how all these things connect whether through speaking to teen-age girls or having songs that are going to be tools for worship pastors or starting a foundation, it’s the power of our individual lives. If you’re just obedient, God can do so much with just one life.”