So, recently a movie came out about the life of Rich Mullins. Of course, it had to be called Ragamuffin. What else would it be called?
I couldn't wait to watch it. It's no secret that I love the music he left behind. And I already knew some stuff about his life - a kind of rough, honest, struggling life. It's a life I've watched close-up and personal within my own family. Struggles against depression, the feeling of being different, alcoholism.
I love a handful of alcoholics and addicts very deeply . . . recovering and otherwise. I am a person who struggles with anxiety and depression off and on - and I love others who struggle with it like I do. I love people who are gay and lesbian and people who have struggled to stay connected to a church because they just can't seem to fit in and feel accepted. And for years all of these things have impressed on me the importance of being an accepting person on behalf of God, but I have very seldom believed truly that God accepts me.
Even as I've served in different churches, I've struggled with this. In fact, I've often worried that if people really knew about my own anxiety and my love for a broken and beautiful family . . . . well . . . I have wondered if the people who say that they love me would stop because none of this is perfect. I know that sounds crazy. And the people who love us very often love us more than we understand. But I'm being honest with you about this fear.
It was because of reading about the life of Rich Mullins that I discovered a bit more truth about what I really am. I'm a Ragamuffin.
Rich Mullins' story led me to Brennan Manning's story. And his story has been leading me to my own. Slowly and honestly.
I've been learning for the last few years about how to allow God to love me. "I dare you to trust that I love you just as you are . . . not as you should be." - Words spoken by a preacher who believes that Jesus will only ask of us one thing at the end of our lives - "Did you believe that I loved you?" And what would my answer be? . . . . "I believe that you loved me when I was serving the right way. I believe that you loved me when the church choir loved me and when they liked the songs I picked. I believe that you loved me when people accepted my music and when I was popular. I believed that you loved me when my peers finally said they thought I was moving in the right direction." Is that going to be my answer? Because those are qualifiers. And they suggest that God doesn't love me when things aren't going well.
I want to be able to answer the question with one word. I don't like all of those qualifiers. They're buried in my soul and it's going to take a long time to unearth them. But I want to do the work so that my answer will be different.
I want to say, "Yes."
When I hand all of my songs back to God - all of the children I've taught, all of the choirs I've directed, all of the words I've written, each minute of parenting, and every year of being someone's spouse - when I give it all back to God at the end of my life, I want to say, "Yes. I knew that you loved me. I knew it the whole time. And it was enough for me."
That's the most important part - It was enough for me.
If it is enough then I can let go of the fear I carry behind the music and the directing. I can hand over the pain I carry in my own spirit because of things that have happened to my family and my close friends. I can lay it all down. And it won't matter if anybody is offended or angry. Because there's only one love that covers everything. There's only one love that dies and is resurrected every single day on my behalf.
Hey - I know you're a Ragamuffin, too. We're nothing more than beggars at God's table . . . and that makes us the same. This one is for all of us.
I don't know what your family is like. I don't know what rough stuff you've been dragging yourself through or what kind of love you have for what kind of brokenness. But I know it's there.
I don't know what your own broken pieces are. But I know you have them.
And God is looking at you, through the eyes of a rebellious young man who was born into poverty and who died like a criminal . . . through the eyes of a man who lives to live through death itself so that you and I will know the answer - "Does God really love me?" - "Yes." - "Can it be trusted?" - "Yes." - "Will I mess up?" - "Yes." - "Will God still be there?" - "Yes."