What images come to mind when you read that word? Dirty? Disheveled? Unkempt? Mismatched? Out of place? Worn and torn? Whatever comes to mind, it probably involves something that is less than perfect, less than ideal. It is probably something that would not be considered beautiful.
When I think of ragamuffin I think of the late Brennan Manning. Manning was a priest, author, and called himself a ragamuffin. He was an example of grace and second chances. He was an alcoholic who struggled with his flesh, sometimes very openly. But regardless of his struggles, he loved Jesus. He loved his Abba, and he was painfully aware of God’s grace. His writings were raw; the stories he told clearly came from a long life filled with both joy and pain. And I’ve heard that his relationship with his ‘Abba’ was intoxicating and contagious. I wish I could have met him.
My high school youth pastor first introduced me to Manning’s work. I tore through “Ragamuffin Gospel” as a naïve, sheltered and judgmental 16-year-old girl. It was unlike anything I had ever read. I was raised in the church and was there nearly every time the doors opened. My church was grace focused but along the way somehow I missed the truth of the radical, unrelenting, beautiful grace that Manning wrote about. A father who runs to us despite our shortcomings. a father who forgives and loves despite our sins and prodigal natures. That book began a journey for me- a journey that I’m still taking to this very day. I was salvation based but much of my worth came from my works. I judged others whose deeds were not as ‘good’ as mine or whose sins were ‘worse’ than mine. Manning wrote with such passion for the holy grace that God gives us. It has nothing to do with what we do, but rather who we are- Abba’s Children.
I just finished reading Manning’s final work- Prodigal. Tears sprang to my eyes as I read the story of Jack Chisholm. He was the ‘people’s pastor’ of a nondescript but all too familiar megachurch in the United States. He fell from fame because of one fateful night. Everything fell apart, leading Jack on a journey of true grace. I won’t ruin the entire plot for you, but it’s an incredible story of forgiveness and redemption.
We all fall from grace; we all do things to miss the mark. We hurt each other, we hurt ourselves, and we drift away from the grace filled life God has for us. We all do it, but the church tends to cast judgment on others. Like I mentioned previously, we judge others whose sins are deemed ‘worse’ than our own. But we are all ragamuffins. We all mess up. All of our shortcomings are the same. We judge others while hiding our own sin and pride. (Well maybe you don’t, but I know I sure have). But our shortcomings are there, and they aren’t perfect, they’re rags.
Friends, none of us are perfect. But it doesn’t matter what you’ve done, it matters who you are. You are a child of Abba- our heavenly father. He doesn’t hold your sins up against you. He doesn’t weigh your good against your bad to make sure you are heavier on the ‘good’ side. His arms are open wide for anyone who wants to sit in his perfect grace.
Rest in that grace today friends. There is nothing more beautiful than Abba’s love and grace.