Updated: Jul 27, 2020
“Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let not your hands be idle, for you do not know which will succeed whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well." Ecc 11:6
I have struggled hard over the years to know how to define success in terms of our work. The NGO world measures success by outcomes. How many girls rescued, how many convictions won, and how many girls restored? We have targets for all of these, each year. We report faithfully on any numbers that emerge in these areas. Its only human to pin our sense of accomplishment as an organization and as individuals on achieving the targets. I guess that can work if you meet the numbers. But what about the years when, no matter how many raids were conducted, we could not rescue the number of girls that we planned, thanks to police tip-offs, low staff strength or complete lack of police cooperation. What about when our cases are acquitted because the judge was bought off? What about our girls who willingly return to prostitution after rescue, rehabilitation, and our employment program? How do we define that in a world obsessed with results? We have expended enormous effort, and yet there is little to show for it. In the early days when Freedom Firm was just launching and I had started our aftercare home, I had a list of objectives that would help my staff define success: the girl who learned to read and write, who was industrious, who grew in good behavior. What a joke! Few girls changed in the ways that I had bench-marked. Every milestone they reached was often dissolved in the next day's backward step.
I was young and naïve and four years passed before I burned those definitions in an angry fire of disillusionment and disgrace. Four years of striving and the few measurables that were met were fleeting. Failure loomed large and ugly, my sense of personal shame knew no limits.
I came up with a new definition. I boiled it down to a bare essence, not the hardy list I had earlier. Now, I would measure success by the girls who embraced their freedom and walked in freedom. Translation: girls who did not return to prostitution after rehabilitation. Surely this was a better fleece. This definition crumbled quickly. Of course, there were plenty of girls who stayed out of prostitution. But there were the ones who, like Lot's wife, looked back.
Today my proofs and strivings are a discarded refuse, a woman's attempt to be proud, to achieve that sense of accomplishment. It is dust and a completely worthless system designed to make ourselves feel better.
I am left, quite simply, with the gift. The cup of water extended, the good book opened and read aloud, a horse's strong back, a story told, a meal prepared, counsel given, a witness's testimony, a job offer, the search for one in bondage, a friendship offered, a crime recorded, a door opened.
What about our personal lives, are we measuring our worth by the goodness of our marriages, children charting the straight and narrow, or the esteemed regard of our friends? It's the gift that matters. What happens as a result of that gift is not in our hands. The cup may be dashed to the floor, the good meal wasted, and counsel rejected. But there is great beauty in the gift.
As we move toward Christmas I think of the greatest gift ever given. A life laid down. We can choose to accept or reject this gift. Was His death a success or a failure? Does our response determine that? There is immeasurable beauty in His gift.