Annette Horton - 1986
Gifts are fun to give and to receive . . . especially when they come beautifully wrapped. Oh the anticipation that builds as one gently unties the ribbon and then carefully folds back the paper to reveal what is inside. Unfortunately, some gifts do not come quite so beautifully wrapped. These gifts, even when given by a loved one, give us pause. Do we want to know what is inside? Do we dare show our true feelings about the gift especially if the one who gave it was giving it out of their deep love for us?
I have received many beautifully wrapped gifts in my life, but some of the longest lasting and most beautiful gifts have come in ugly wrapping. On November 11, I celebrate one of the ugliest wrapped gifts I have ever received. At the time this gift came, I was living in Tanzania. I had only been there two and a half months. That night a gang of men shot their way into my home and robbed and beat me.
The protective bubble I had sensed around me all of my life was shattered. I had suddenly become a statistic – it was no longer something I heard or read about that took place in someone else’s life. God, in His graciousness, brought both physical and emotional healing. He has allowed that event to shape and mold me to be more effective in reaching out to vulnerable women who have gone through much worse events. We connect on levels we never could had I not gone through that experience.
Another gift that came in ugly wrapping arrived on January 25, 2010 when I was diagnosed with cancer. Surgery and subsequent chemotherapy and recovery have carried their own challenges, but once again God has brought tremendous healing. Through this beautiful gift, I have learned on a new level that each day is a gift from God. I am reminded daily that “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). My cancer was caught early, making my prognosis great. God is obviously not finished with me here on earth yet.
The Ultimate Ugly Gift
Just over 2000 years ago, the most beautiful gift ever was given in very ugly wrapping. Christ’s death on the cross was not a pretty sight. In fact the Gospels tell us it was quite gruesome. But this gift from God had to be wrapped in the ugliness of the sins of the whole world in order for the penalty to be paid. This beautiful gift is one that we need to share with others. And though it may be given and received at difficult times in the lives of those with whom we share it, the ugly wrapping is gone, and the beauty of salvation will shine forever. Through it, God can transform any life into one of beauty! May we remember that when He puts others in our path who need to know Him.
"The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— 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 61:1-3)
About the Author
Twenty-one years ago, Annette began serving the Lord with AIM International. She began serving in Kenya, then moved to AIM’s US headquarters in New York, then to Tanzania, and then to AIM’s US retirement center in Florida before moving to Illinois where she currently serves as the US African Ministry Personnel Coordinator for AIM. Throughout the years since graduation Annette has enjoyed staying in touch or reconnecting periodically with good friends from her time at Multnomah. She first said “Yes” to anywhere in the world God wanted her to serve while she was a freshman at Multnomah and has never regretted that decision.