For Ragamuffins, God’s name is Mercy. We see our darkness as a prized possession because it drives us into the heart of God. Without mercy our darkness would plunge us into despair – for some, self-destruction. Time alone with God reveals the unfathomable depths of the poverty of the spirit. We are so poor that even our poverty is not our own: It belongs to the mysterium tremendum of a loving God. ~Brennan Manning
I think we should travel somewhere together today—to a destination not likely included on itineraries, to a place tucked away like a faded note in someone’s diary. When I think about people who have transformed my life, I can’t not think about this place.
And about the little ragamuffins.
I remember the first time I saw them—eyes aquatic blue or bronze, skin like cream or café au lait. Beautiful souls in a world of wheat fields and sheep. I was in Europe; a Europe unlike any Conde Naste travel journal I had ever seen. The land was dotted with villages forgotten by time, wearing the scars of tyranny—and people caught somewhere between the longing for liberty and missing the days when choice was not a choice.
People flock to castles and fortresses standing mightily on hills in someone else’s town. Jobs are more plentiful in someone else’s country. But life carries on here in the forgotten places. The land is tilled and the crops are sold and the prayer is that there will be enough food for another day. And as they play outside, the little ragamuffins wear the scraps of someone else’s life.
Toddlers and teens wear leftover fads and promote vacation destinations they will never have a chance to visit. They wear words they don’t know on clothing that swallows their tiny frames. Their little feet stumble along country roads in shoes made for other feet.
And yet they are beautiful. Yes, so beautiful.
They sat so attentively as a team from the United States talked to them about faith. Hands raised to the sky when the question was, “Do you worry your family won’t have food to eat?”
There are no easy answers, no platitudes to make the fear go away. The little ones try to trust. They try to believe. But it’s not a simple thing.
It’s never a simple thing.
I look at the ragamuffins. I look at me. Yes, me with the new and the just for this moment and the every day fresh and clean. Me with the plans and the dreams and the access. Me with the ideas of what life would look like if life were better for them—if their life looked more normal or western or easy. I’ve been here so many times before. And yet, here I am again. Rocked to the core. Crumbling at the thought that my heart would yet be so shallow when it has seen the true depths of pain and divine purpose. My impoverished soul cries out for mercy.
And I am brought to my knees. Because there He is.
The God of the ragamuffins. He’s there in those eyes. He’s wearing those clothes. He’s holding the scraps and leftovers and wheat fields and scars. He’s moved along the unpaved roads to the forgotten places and He’s made Himself at home there. He’s standing in the wretched spaces, and He’s inviting me into the story He’s writing.
“Will you trust Me yet again? Will you trust me with them? Will you trust Me with the little ragamuffins?”
I let go of what life here should look like. What life anywhere should look like. Because real life is more. So much more. And I pray.
Sweet Jesus, let me love this world rightly. Let me see into eyes and let my heart break. Let me hold all things in common with those around me, seeing others as bleeding, laughing, crying, hurting flesh and bone and not projects to be completed or things to be fixed or causes to be advanced. Let my heart ache with Your heart of compassion. Speak to me and give me ears to truly hear what You have to say—beyond language and culture and space and time.
Let me let go of answers.
Let me hold simply to You – let me simply let You take control.
Let me be fearless in Your love. Bold in Your love. Amazed by Your love.
I look down and see scraps of the ragamuffin on this soul. They are teaching me. He is teaching me. And yes, it is beautiful.