By Rachael Burnett About the author: Rachael and her husband, Paul, live in Memphis, TN, where Rachael is a high school English and Language Arts teacher. She describes herself as a lover of learning, antiques, anything homemade, and - not to be left out - chap stick. All of these things pale in comparison to Rachael’s love of Jesus, who just so happened to prompt her to go to Ethiopia with a team from Central Church in June, 2013. As the team’s blogger, she brought those of us not fortunate enough to travel with the team face-to-face with the daily work with the children living on the streets of Addis Ababa. This duty left her primed to continue blogging for us once she returned to Memphis, as her eyes were opened to the joys and sorrows of life in beautiful Ethiopia.
A few weeks ago I was watching the ESPYs - that’s the Awards for Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly for you non-sports fans - and I was awestruck by the winner of the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage: Robin Roberts.
The story of Robin's valiant fight against breast cancer and an ensuing severe blood disease in addition to coping with the death of her mother brought the tearful audience to its feet. And I have to admit the fact that this incredible lady is a fellow Mississippi girl made my heart swell with pride just a little.
BUT what really rapt my attention and admiration was her bold faith in God and her conviction to follow her mother’s advice: “Make your mess your message.”
That phrase is a poignant reminder to me of what God does for us when he redeems us - He transforms our messy, broken, sin-eaten lives into His message of restoration, hope, and future glory.
While in Ethiopia this June, I saw amazing examples of God turning a mess into His message. The Forsaken Children's Ethiopian team serves hundreds of children who are living in what can seem to be a bottomless pit of poverty, abandonment, and despair. BUT, God is on the move; His heart beats to bring saving change and lasting hope.
Recently, I was reading the Biblical account of Naomi in the book of Ruth, and by the end of it, God’s picture of redemption - mess to message - was so abundantly clear to me. In the story, as a result of a famine, Naomi leaves her homeland of Judah and moves with her husband and two sons to the country of Moab. Her husband dies, and ten years later both of her sons die. She is left destitute and completely alone, but for her two daughters-in-law whom her sons had married in Moab.
Can you imagine?
Naomi and her daughter-in-law, Ruth, decide to move back to Bethlehem, and when Naomi arrives, she tells her friends to no longer call her “Naomi”, which means “pleasant”, but to call her “Mara”, which means “bitter” instead. To me, that new name sounds fitting considering all of the loss and heartbreak she experienced.
BUT, remember: God is always on the move.
By the end of the story, God has provided Boaz, who allows Naomi and Ruth to reap from his fields, and he eventually marries Ruth. Ruth is apart of a family again! But it gets better. God blesses Ruth and Boaz with a son, whom they name Obed. You may be wondering, “Why is that such a big deal?” Well…
Matthew 1:1, 5-6 reads:
1The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king.
In other words, Jesus, the Savior of the world, came from the line of Boaz and Ruth!
So Naomi and Ruth’s mess of grief and suffering became part of the glorious message of God’s redemptive sacrifice through Jesus!
As this awesome truth began to settle in my heart, the precious Ethiopian faces I met this summer began scrolling through my mind.
I met real children who have experienced unfathomable hurts, BUT through The Forsaken Children's Ethiopian team, God has brought healing.
Children who were once on the street alone, addicted, and afraid are now treasured, free, and full of hope. However, we mustn't forget there are many more precious ones who need rescuing. I love how the Father’s message has never changed: from thousands of years ago to right now, His work of reclaiming and restoring is constant.
Would you let Him transform you - make your mess His message?
1 John 3:1 says:
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
Would you be part of His work to restore others?
2 Corinthians 5:20-21 read:
20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Like this song proclaims, from the ashes a song can rise.