Mama dabbed a little bit of perfume on my neck
And she kissed my cheek
Then I saw tears wellin’ up in her troubled eyes
When she started to speak
She looked at a pitiful shack
And then she looked at me and took a ragged breath
She said your Pa’s run off and I’m real sick
And the baby’s gonna starve to death…
She said, “Here’s your one chance Fancy, don’t let me down.”
The words to Reba McEntire’s song, “Fancy,” have always disturbed me because the odds of the character, Fancy, escaping poverty are very low. And, unfortunately, many, many children in our cities and towns today can relate to “Fancy;” the chances of these kids escaping physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual poverty are very low. As someone who has taught, coached, served as a campus missionary, and now works as a senior pastor, I can easily grow discouraged when I see children with very little family and social support struggling to make it. I have many times thrown up my hands behind closed doors and uttered, “God, it’s not fair!”
Thankfully, there are more than a few “Fancys” in the Biblical story. One such “Fancy” was named Rahab. Rahab was a prostitute that, according to Joshua 2, hid Israelite spies from the King of Jericho because of her recognition of God’s power. Rahab put her life in danger by hiding the spies because the King could have easily killed her if he had caught her in the lie. After protecting the spies and saving the Nation of Israel, Rahab brokered a deal with them in order to save her family. Joshua and the nation of Israel kept their promise to Rahab, saving her family during the invasion. Scripture then states that, “She (Rahab) lives among the Israelites to this day.”
Another “Fancy” from Scripture was named Ruth. Ruth was a Moabite woman who married an Israelite man who then later died. The book of Ruth portrays a passionate encounter between Ruth and her former mother-in-law, Naomi, when Naomi urged Ruth to stay with her Moabite people while she, Naomi, returns to her land. However, Ruth, strongly told her former mother-in-law, Naomi, that she would go with her and “your God will be my God and your people will be my people.” Ruth returns with Naomi, meets a man named Boaz, falls in love, has a baby, and redeems Naomi’s family.
The beautiful twist in the story of Ruth is found in Matthew 1 where Matthew describes Jesus’ family tree. Matthew started with Abraham and then lists all the males in Jesus’ lineage. A little ways down the list, Matthew stated “Salmon the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was…(Ready for it??? Drumroll please……..) Rahab.” Turns out that Ruth had two mothers-in-law, Naomi and that pagan prostitute that just so happened to save her family and the nation of Israel, Rahab. Rahab, by hiding the spies and saving her family, ended up becoming a great-grandmother to Jesus Christ. And, Ruth by honoring her commitment to her mother-in-law, Naomi, also ended up becoming a great-grandmother to Jesus Christ. What an amazing twist in the stories of Rahab and Ruth!
What do Rahab and Ruth have to do with the classroom? If God can use two pagan women to rescue the family tree of Jesus, you never know what he might do with the “Fancy” in your classroom. The next Rahab, Ruth, Samuel, David, Peter, or Paul might be the exact same student that drives you nuts on a daily basis. I beg you! Please do not give up on him or her! You never know when the next great character, in the story that God continues to write, might be sitting at a desk near you…
Paul is the husband to Tara, father to Natalie and Isaac, has an average jump shot, and enjoys running. His secret wish is to one day become a Jedi Knight. Paul holds a doctorate in marriage and family counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and currently serves as senior pastor of Hardinsburg Baptist Church. Paul desires to help young couples navigate the early crucibles of marriage, especially when one or both of the spouses are engaged in vocational ministry.