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  • Writer's pictureSue Bowles

A Ragamuffin’s Ragamuffin (aka: here we go again)

Paul called himself the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). I’m starting to take a little solace in that.  I think Paul was saying no matter how hard he tried he knew there was still a sin nature in him that raised its ugly head and he had to constantly fight against it. I found a devotional online about this passage and to quote it:

“There is hidden here a very important principle that all of us will have to learn sometime or other. Whatever the flesh once manifested itself to be in our lives–some extreme form of evil, whatever we have done that is now, in our own sight, bad, ugly, and something we are ashamed of–we have to remember that that is an area of weakness that needs to be guarded very carefully, because we can return to that in an instant, no matter how long we have been Christians. That is what Paul is talking about.” (http://www.raystedman.org/daily-devotions/timothy/chief-of-sinners).

I think Paul gets it. He understands the battle, the struggle, the up and down yo-yo of emotions and thoughts and beliefs and lies that swirl inside the heads of ragamuffins trying to find their way. If as Ragamuffins we understand we are simply beggars at the door of God’s mercy…I think Paul would identify himself as such. In those days he just called himself the ‘chief of sinners.’

I’ve just gone through 2 weeks of being caught up in the battle. Everything Psalm 91 says to do, I didn’t. And the result was feeling like I was right back where I started. The whispers in my head made my mind spin and each time around a new doubt would get picked up and mixed into the swirling dustbowl that was my mind. “Nothing changed at that retreat. It was just a spiritual high and now you’re back to reality.” “You screwed up again…do you REALLY think God would still love you?” “Don’t tell anyone what you’re struggling with – not even your ragamuffins retreat friends. Just keep this to yourself – you’re such a fraud.” The list could go on but my head was SPINNING and before I knew it I was sliding down that slippery slope of old habits that put me back in prison. The masks were trying to go back up.

But something wonderful happened: I got called out. The Ragamuffin Room noticed I had been pretty quiet and recluse and they started asking…and when I didn’t answer because I didn’t know how to answer they asked again. So then I started feeling bad for not answering so I put up a generic post…and the flood of love began. They accepted me, encouraged me, loved me and challenged me. They in essence said ‘we get it.’ They even went so far as to say my openness with my struggles encourages them! That one still blows me away.

And that helped start taking down the wall – that same wall that had been blown to shambles at the retreat had started to rebuild itself and with the help of another person God softly broke through…again. With the same gentleness and tenderness and love as He did the first time…because He doesn’t change. And I went back to the Ragamuffin Room to follow up and let everyone know I felt like my feet were at least pointed in the right direction again. I told them I felt like a screw up even with them because I turned my back on the one group that would understand. And here are two of the most precious responses I received (they’ve given me permission to share):

Isn’t it interesting that when we see something for what it is, then do another faceplant, suddenly all we’ve seen to be true is no longer valid because *we knew therefore we should have got it right this time*… ahh the voices in our heads…. glad you are back… One baby step at a time we’ll get there…. with lots of trips and flips and flops on the way. Just keep the faith, my friend. Love ya. – Dawn

That’s something I’ve been doing a lot of learning (again) about recently.. how it doesn’t prove you’re a horrible person that you need to keep learning things over and over… and that God isn’t sitting back saying, “Oh my gosh! I can’t believe, you STILL haven’t gotten it!” Like a Father would say of his child learning to walk… “I can’t believe he can’t walk yet! He FELL… three times! He’s never going to learn. What a failure of a child.” Of course not! He’s there, saying “Come on! It’s okay, you fell but try again… I’m right here… keep coming to me… you can do it!!! You made it TWO steps that time! Look at you go! I’m so proud of you…” You know? And beyond that… we have a Savior who plants seeds… and sometimes those seeds take a long time under the soil to take root and grow strong, soaking up the rain and anchoring in the earth before they EVER pop their heads up over the soil… and even then, they look weak and easily beaten-down by the winds and rain, the very things that are bringing them the nutrients they need. So we, too, have things God shows us and nurtures in us for years… maybe our whole lives… and we think nothing’s ever going to grow… and then HE brings it to fruition in His time. I used to beat myself up SO badly for realizing I was learning something He was showing me 15 years ago… then realized, no, He’s just been at work this WHOLE TIME. He is so faithful. He LOVES, so much…. gosh, I know He loves YOU, Sue, because He uses you greatly in my life, even when you don’t realize it. – Shelley

One other dear friend (Maureen) sent me an excerpt from Psalm 91 and when I read the entire psalm I realized it described in great detail where my feet came off track. Everything it says to do I didn’t – dwell, take refuge, trust….you know…the basics. It always comes back to the basics, doesn’t it?  🙂 (what’s really cool – two of the folks mentioned here were the other 2/3 of my retreat triad – that’s love!). Here’s the image Maureen sent me:

So where does that leave me?  Right back where I started 5 weeks ago after the retreat…but with new perspective. The enemy of my soul is turning up the heat – using the same general tactics but with new intensity…and I can’t fight alone. I’m not designed to fight him…because I will lose…EVERY time. And he will take every inch of ground I give him and multiply it until I feel like I’ve gone too far for God to find me. And unless I interrupt those thought patterns quickly he will gladly watch me put myself on the sideline and laugh all the way.

So I clearly have work to do. I see where I got off, know what I did wrong, and need to fight smarter the next time it happens. I need to let HIM fight for me! Because it WILL happen. The enemy doesn’t give up ground without a fight and he just hasn’t figured out, yet, that he’s lost. I need to do a better job of reminding him – and myself – of that truth.

So I feel like I’m a Ragamuffin’s Ragamuffin. I keep messing up, I feel like for some reason it’s just not going to get through my thick head, and I keep beating myself up every time I mess up and find myself back to ‘sheepishly hopeful’ that God would still love and accept me even with my faults. I find myself banging my head against the wall saying ‘here I go….AGAIN! When will I EVER get it right?!’ Anyone relate?

But here’s where the road turns: I know that God loves me and that Jesus Christ is absolutely crazy about me…even when I mess up, even when I do yet another faceplant, even when I ‘did it again.’ The truth of God’s love for me does not change and I will continue to return to step number one: I’m broken and God loves me beyond measure….period. Because God loves Ragamuffins. And I’m just one of many.

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