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  • Writer's pictureSue Bowles

Ragamuffins, Reality, and Redemption

A couple weeks ago I went to see a movie called Ragamuffin: The Story of Rich Mullins.    But that title is a bit misleading….it’s not so much the story of Rich Mullins as it is the story of all of us. For those not familiar with Rich, he was an against the grain, salmon swimming uphill Christian musician who rose to prominence in the late 80s and 90s. Some of his songs are worship classics now – Awesome God, Sing Your Praise to the Lord, I See You (the same one recorded by Michael W. Smith). But there was SO much more to Rich than most people knew, and while that comes out clearly in the movie, it’s not a distraction. It’s actually an Attraction. I actually think it helps many of us answer the question we asked ourselves for years: ‘what is it about that guy that makes me feel like I can really relate to him?’

The movie left my head spinning and my spirit searching. I took the next day and admittedly played hooky from my home church and instead went to the Church of Panera. And God met me there. With Bible and Brennan Manning book Ragamuffin Gospel in hand, I set down at a table with coffee mocha and bagel and just started to write. And here’s what came out. This is the effect the movie had on me.


Brokenness. Bed raggled, beat up & burnt out. Bent-bruised & a disappointment to God. Wobbly & weak-kneed – don’t have it all together & too proud to accept the handout of amazing grace.

Guilty as charged.

“To live by grace means to acknowledge my WHOLE life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side I learn who I am and what God’s grace means. As Thomas Menton put it, ‘A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.’ – p. 26

I yearn to serve – to be ‘there’ for others. And the harsh truth just struck – I cannot give from an empty well. My well is empty because it is not full of HIS grace. I have man-made grace. Not God’s grace. I have little to give back because I have not let go. “Oh for grace to trust You more.”

How has God proven Himself so UNtrustworthy that I cannot FULLY let go of my pain & brokenness? What has He done to me to make Him hurt by keeping Him out? Why hold on SO tightly to that which only hurts me more? Why is grace good enough for salvation but not enough for sanctification?

To just sit at Jesus’ table and just BE! To experience – to KNOW – to TRUST – in full acceptance – no pretense, no performance. Just passion. No fears. No explanations. No justifications. Just to BE. THAT is the nature of acceptance. AND in so doing, true communion with Jesus is experienced. Not man-made but God given. He invites me. I look hesitantly through the doorway, wanting what others have, wondering – yearning – for it to be real for me. And my ragamuffiness – the brokenness – gets in the way. I can relate to the brokenness part of being a ragamuffin. I need to grasp the grace part and let it sink in. I need to let go and take hold. God, bridge the gap between head and heart.


The secret of being a ragamuffin is best defined by Brennan Manning: “A ragamuffin is a beggar at the doorway of God’s grace.” I was SO struck in the movie when Rich went on a retreat with Brennan and TRULY dealt with the pain in his life – his scars. And through letting go – through letting go of Rich and taking hold of God through His grace – Rich learned how to live – to be free – to loose the chains and simply obey God and do what He had put on his heart to do. REGARDLESS. Now THAT’S true freedom. Someone recently directed me to the video ‘Brave’ by Sara Bareilles. If you’ve not seen it check it out on Youtube   Don’t tell me you don’t wish you had that kind of courage. That’s the same thing Rich had…because he lived the secret.

I’ve still been thinking a lot about being a Ragamuffin – even today made a necklace that simply reads ‘Ragamuffin’ and now wear it. My reality, though, is I’m still stuck in the in-between, much like Rich was before Brennan stepped in. I’m working on it….I’m getting there….and I so desperately want to get to the other side and LIVE like Rich did….like Sara sings about. I want to be brave. But my shackles of fear and performance and image and the past still tie me to a certain degree. Not as much as years before but still too much for my own liking. And DEFINITELY more than God’s design.

I still need to come to full grips with being a Ragamuffin…of realizing God loves me. I read the online sample of a different Brennan Manning book called Abba’s Child. Here’s what I’ve been chewing on, and I think when I get the hang of THIS, being a Ragamuffin will be my redemption and not my regret.


“In human form Jesus revealed to us what God is like. He exposed our projections for the idolatry that they are and gave us the way to become free of them. It takes a profound conversion to accept that God is relentlessly tender and compassionate toward us just as we are – not in spite of our sins and faults (that would not be total acceptance), but with them.” (that’s the line that struck)

And a little later…”This brokenness is what needs to be accepted. Unfortunately, this is what we tend to reject. Here the seeds of corrosive self-hatred take root. This painful vulnerability is the characteristic feature of our humanity that most needs to be embraced in order to restore our human condition to a healed state…..God calls us to stop hiding and come openly to Him. God is the father who ran to His prodigal son when he came limping home. God weeps over us when shame and self-hatred immobilize us. Yet as soon as we lose our nerve about ourselves, we take cover. Adam and Eve hid, and we all, in one way or another, have used them as role models. Why? Because we do not like what we see. It is uncomfortable – intolerable – to confront our true selves…His love, which called us into existence, calls us to come out of the self-hatred and to step into His truth. ‘Come to me NOW’ Jesus says. ‘Acknowledge and accept who I want to be for you: a Savior of boundless compassion, infinite patience, unbearable forgiveness, and love that keeps no score of wrongs. Quit projecting onto Me your own feelings about yourself. At this moment your life is a bruised reed and I will not crush it, a smoldering wick and I will not quench it. You are in a safe place.”


My redemption is to crawl up in the lap of my Abba Father – God – and let Him hold me as my human father held me. Let HIM protect me. Let HIM provide for me. And let HIM love me – as I truly am – a broken beggar standing at the doorway of God’s grace.

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