“God is not afraid of your mess.”
I think I was in college the first time I heard a priest say that. This priest went on to describe how God enters the messiness of our lives, and creates order. We do not need to wait to invite God in after we have created order ourselves, because we will never be able to create the order He can create with us. According to Galatians 5:22, love, peace and joy are fruits of a Life in the Spirit. He weaves His love so deeply into our heart that we begin to open like little flowers, allowing His sunlight and warmth to penetrate the wounded areas of our heart.
St. Josephine Bakhita was one of these little flowers, so badly in need of the warmth of the Son. At around nine years old, this young girl was stolen from her family in the Sudan and sold into slavery. She was terribly abused, and experienced intense physical suffering. At the young age of 13, she underwent severe abuse and tattooing at the hands of a Turkish general’s mistresses. It was reported that she had 144 physical scars for the rest of her life. (Bakhitacharities.org)
She would go on to be owned by many different families, some of whom treated her well. She was eventually sold to an Italian family as a maid and caregiver for their young child. St. Bakhita became very devoted to this child and accompanied her mistress to a boarding school in Italy run by the Canossian Sisters.
It was in this school in Italy that this little saint would meet her true Master. The one whose love would truly free her. Looking at the crucifix, she saw the pain and suffering that she had endured, and yet she found the love that the Lord offered her.
When her mistress’s family tried to make St. Bakhita leave the school, she went to court and gained her freedom. The Italian court ruled that since slavery was illegal in Italy, that St. Bakhita was a free woman. At the age of 41, St. Bakhita joined the religious order and spent the next fifty years serving the Lord.
St Bakhita refused to be further enslaved by allowing the injustices that had once been done to her to make her bitter. She knew that Christ was offering her a freedom of her heart as well.
Each of us has a story, and in that story a place where we have been broken. Maybe it was our own decisions and lack of restraint that led us down a path of darkness and sin. Maybe our brokenness was at the hand of someone who we trusted or someone who had authority over us. Regardless of where brokenness entered our story, like St. Bakhita, we can find a “home” in the wounded Christ on the cross.
“The Lord has loved me so much: we must love everyone… we must be compassionate.”St. Josephine Bakhita
These words of St. Bakhita remind us that we can find compassion both for ourselves, and for those who have broken us.
Where is God calling you out of your own brokenness? Maybe compassion begins with loving your own story.