On this day, I call myself the Ragamuffin Runner – desperate to make sense of the mess one mile at a time. But only a few years ago, I would never have outwardly admitted that I am “burnt-out, bedraggled, and beat-up,” to use the words of Brennan Manning. I was trying to hide all of that from everyone. Because, you know, messy people are just, well, messy.
I’m thinking about all this on my run because of the mud. There is mud covering the entire trail this morning and despite my best attempts to run around, and jump over, and sidestep the sloppy spring runoff, I’m filthy. And, not only is it splashing up onto my legs, but somehow it’s found its way into my ponytail and the back of my neck. But, I’m not annoyed at all. I’m actually trying to stifle the giggling. This is fun. I feel free and liberated. And, like most morning runs, it doesn’t go unnoticed that this is God’s way of sharing. His way of giving me one more moment to be a child again – and all I needed was to accept the mess.
The sticky mud on my running shoes makes me feel like Frankenstein as I exaggerate my stride because of the extra weight. My Nana comes to mind again as she’s sweetly calling me her ragamuffin girl – dirty and sweaty and disheveled after playing outside in the summer heat. My Nana loved the mess. She adored this little girl – maybe because she loved the innocence of the child who lived in a messy world but didn’t know how very perfect she really was in His eyes.
In a flash, the movie of my mind clicks to a different scene. It’s me and my twins in the waiting room of the child therapist’s office. They are only six years old, chattering away about everything and nothing. We were there because I had decided to take them to see a professional after our marriage had ended and we had become just another statistic. The kids went in for their session, and like most weeks, I sat in the empty waiting room with my game face on like a good soldier. I remember, though, that this day was different.
After the kids were done, the therapist asked me to come into her office and posed one simple question to me: “How are you doing?” I remember just staring at her. Not one person in the months since my divorce had asked me that question. I mean, why would they? I had it together. I was the rock. I had to be strong because there was no other option. But, as I stood there looking into the therapist’s tired but kind eyes, I decided to be real. I explained that the week had been rough. I had broken down in tears in front of the children after a long day of work – staring at a messy house, a pile of bills, and frustrating homework assignments.
I remember the conversation almost verbatim. “I feel horrible that they saw me like that. Sick to my stomach that they saw me cry and break down.” The therapist held my shoulders and said, “Look at me. It’s okay to be human in front of your children. They need to see your emotion – to know that you are not a perfect robot. Everyone needs to see the authentic you – broken and whole. Callie, no one can love a stone.”
No one can love a stone. I heard that from the therapist all those years ago, but it’s taken me many more years to realize what this means in a broader sense. I once heard a preacher say that people are not attracted to our competence, they are attracted to our confession. We don’t attract others with our muscle and our might, our intellect and our have-it-all-togetherness. People find their way to us when we admit, “I am broken, afraid, and worried – just like you.”
After a few miles trying to daintily dodge the puddles, I’ve given in and I’m now gloriously covered in caking mud. Some of it is drying and it’s beginning to crack around my knees. “Don’t ever let them see your cracks. It’s not okay to show your brokenness, your frailties, your human heart.” That’s what we learned. That was then, but things look different today.
“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen
I look up at the cloud-covered sun barely peeking out, and feel peace for I am loved despite my cracks – and, in fact, most likely because of them. We live in a messy world, but I think that admitting my mess has made me both more lovable and more loving. And, I pray that my children no longer see a stone, but instead see a ragamuffin: an imperfect mama who loves them even more deeply because of the light that shines through – and from – their own broken pieces.