Perversion. Corruption. Trickery. Lies. Immorality. Lust. Sex. Darkness. Death.
It all hung in the air as I walked along the main strip of Phuket, Thailand known as Bangla Road, smiling politely as the words “no thank you” escaped from my lips and my eyes stared into the person holding a border line explicit graphic flyer in front of my face to advertise a show named after the game I played growing up with my family in the room above our garage; ping pong will never be the same for me. As I looked down the street through the herd of cattle walking ahead, around and behind me, all waiting to follow the leader to the next big thing or the quickest path off the cliff to their destruction, I accepted the reality that one “no thank you” might not be enough.
I had just stepped out of the taxi.
One thing you start to notice when observing the streets at night is the number of middle aged white men with beautifully young Thai girls. Dollar signs flash in your mind as you try and fight back the judgment weighing heavy on your lips while your mind wonders how much he thought she was worth. Music invades your thoughts as the neon lights keep your eyes moving from the shiny poles to the glass cage, from the broken girl to the lost boy, from the hopeless expressions to the matching pair of empty eyes that don’t really see you at all.
Is this what hell looks like?
This main strip opens the way to tiny little streets full of individually owned bars offering the cheapest drinks, the best atmosphere or the hottest girls. Every bar looks the same, every bar is a little bit different. Each street has something unique about it and as one river can branch off to feed smaller rivers, so Bangla Road gives life to the darkness inside of us all. It only makes sense that I would be drawn to the one named after a crocodile.
Standing outside this street you can’t help but notice the crowd that gathers to watch every night, keeping both feet out the door for a false sense of safety. It has to be one of the busiest spots on Bangla. Like a twisted reversal of a zoo, the animals watch the people dancing on the straight line of stages that seem like a cage, each one chained to the pole in the middle. The chains are invisible though and they are made up of the toughest lies, the strongest darkness, the thickest of deceit and the all too colorful aspect of lust, just to top it off with style. You can see their strain for attention as they dance, you can feel the weight of trying to impress, you can hear their heart cry out with the memories of being a little boy all those years and surgeries ago.
Was this really what they wanted to be when they grew up?
There is a darkness on this street that comes from the pit of hell itself. A level of sin that is so deep, it stops people in their tracks. A type of trickery that pulls them further and further down without their knowledge. A disgust and sadness that you can feel and taste and smell and that comes eerily close to suffocating all the breath out of you.
But we’d only made it halfway down the road.
Walking through the crowded streets, past the lifeless bodies and never-ending array of flyers I eventually felt the cool grittiness of sand coming over the top of my flip-flops as we reached the beach. The rush of crashing waves seemed peaceful and soothing with the absence of a million people and the burning sun that scorches my American skin. As I looked up I could see the lightening far in the distance, igniting the dark clouds with a soft pink and yellow tint that echoed every night I have spent in this country. While following my sisters in the opposite direction I felt my eyes repetitively looking back to see the sky explode with each bolt, while my feet unexpectedly led me to the edge of the water; to this liquid form of life that has been a constant teaching tool over the past few months.
I found myself pacing back and forth, leaving the same footprints in the sand as I retraced them too many times to count. My heart cried and as I found my hands lifting, the Spirit living inside me began to speak.
Jesus! How long will you only thunder? I hear you, I see you flashing in the distance, but how long do we have to wait? Do you know how thirsty these people are? They have no idea the depth of dryness inside of them! How long must we wait for your storm to come? Daddy when will you let it rain!? Flood these streets my King! Flood it with your judgement and your mercy, with your love and your wrath! Let them not only see and hear, but feel your amazing power as it consumes every inch of their body and their spirit. Let the walls come down as the water rushes in; the walls of the bars and the walls they have built in their hearts, let the crash of them only be silenced by your voice and your truth! Wash them clean Father. Wash them white as snow. Let them be your people, be their God, let them know you are Lord! You are good. You are right. You are just. You are everything they never knew they needed!
My Father, my Jesus. Will you only thunder?
“Then you will know that I am the LORD.” – Ezekiel 13