Ethiopian farmers find them all the time.
Bomb casings from past wars and conflicts litter their fields like plastic water bottles on a busy roadside. This left-over battle waste must be cleared or it serves as a hazard to the farmer’s meager equipment.
Question is, “What do you do with spent shells?”
These farmers had a novel idea: sell the empty shells to village women who just happen to be skilled artisans in the traditional techniques of bead making.
That’s where a little company called Raven & Lily from Austin, Texas steps in. They currently help employ over 1,500 marginalized women worldwide, paying fair trade wages to give them access to a safe job, sustainable income, health care, education, and a real chance to break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their families.
One of their lines is made by these Ethiopian women who just happen to also be HIV positive. These recycled bombs have changed their lives.
“I love the imperfect beauty of each hand-made bead,” says co-founder Kirsten Dickerson. “It’s really amazing to me that what was once meant for harm now brings hope and life to the HIV-positive women in our partnership.”
Bullets become beads. Bombs are transformed into beauty.
These marginalized women living in abstract poverty learned a central Kingdom lesson: you can thrive in a war zone even when all you have are spent shells.
This story so reminds me of God’s favorite hobby.
He is a God who not only creates, he re-creates. He loves putting spent shells back into service.
Once, Jesus was on his way to heal the dying child of a Jewish leader when he had an encounter with one of those spent shells (Mark 5:1-34).
She lived with a blood disease that caused cultural, relational and spiritual rejection. It left her alone and desperate for twelve excruciating years.
Oh, she tried everything.
She didn’t want to be unclean. She never chose to live at the margins. She wanted to be known, loved, touched and happy.
The sad part is, those she went to for help simply saw her as a new stream of income. Here was a helpless victim, victimized all over again by the very culture that seemed to revel in her rejection.
“She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.” (Mark 5:26)
There it is:
- She was spent--what she once had was used up in so many attempts to reverse the course of her isolation.
- She was a shell–just an shadow of the person who a dozen years earlier had been alive and vibrant.
She was literally leaking life every day; bleeding out every last drop of hope. Emptied by the process, exploited by people, exhausted in her pain–excluded from even the little joys of life.
She was just a spent shell. Abandoned and anonymous. Unknown. Unaccepted. Unloved.
She was down to her last hope…and once again, that hope was a person.
But this person was like no other she had ever known.
She heard about Jesus and what she heard ignited a very tiny spark of expectation (Mark 5:27). If what was reported about Him was true, maybe things could finally be different.
Interestingly, even in her approach to Jesus, her sense of rejection ruled. She felt it was important to hide her deepest need. Sneak in covertly and just brush his clothes.
Don’t draw attention. Don’t be noticed. Don’t stand out.
Oh I know that feeling too well.
- Hide your failure
- Cover your brokenness
- Disguise your insecurity
- Gloss over your pain
But what this woman was about to discover is that Jesus has never walked away from any pile of rubble. He always sees the phoenix in the ashes.
Driven by desperation, she slinked through the crowd and with her last ounce of hope touched the hem of His garment with the tip of her finger.
In that moment, that millisecond of contact, everything changed. Forever.
You see, Jesus noticed her. No one else did, but Jesus did.
- He stopped. Nobody ever did that. But Jesus knew someone had gotten close enough to Him to make all the difference in the world. (Mark 5:30)
- He spoke. “Daughter”–a word of acceptance, love and intimacy she so desperately needed to hear in her isolation. (Mark 5:34)
Jesus said to her, “Daughter, you took a risk of faith, and now you’re healed and whole. Live well, live blessed! Be healed of your plague.” (Mark 5:34, MSG)
I so love that Jesus is most attractive to those who have proven that nothing else in this world works.
But my greater hope lies in that fact that Jesus is most attracted to just that sort of person.
That is why the poor, marginalized and outcast were attracted to Him. It’s also why He directly appealed to those exact people with His message: “Things are different, God is here now.”
There is nothing Jesus loves to do more than restore, refill and reload spent shells.
He has an amazing ability to refurbish spent shells and then turn around to wreak Kingdom havoc on the very enemy that carpet bombed that life in the first place.
Isaiah talked about it. God delights to “provide for those who grieve…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.“ (Isaiah 61:3)
From ashes to oaks. From mourning to joy. From despair to praise.
From bullets to beauty.
God never wastes a spent shell.