Sometimes stating the obvious is half the battle. “Life” is a struggle. It may seem that we are the only ones “struggling”, but that is not true. We are not alone. Despite outward appearances, everyone struggles. For the follower of Christ, Jesus promises “trouble” in this life. Jesus also promises “abundant life” here on earth. How can they both be true? It seems mysterious, and yes, it is mysterious. Many want to deny the reality of the “struggle” or redefine “the abundant life” in ways that take away the mystery. This path, which most people take, shames the honest seeker of Truth and leaves the soul empty. Ragamuffins understand the dangers of denial and the avoidance of mystery. Ragamuffins embrace with a furious passion the “struggles”, the disappointments of life with all it’s betrayals and yet find a way to embrace the mysteries of the “abundant life” offered by the Savior of our souls. The counseling process enters into those mysteries. It’s normal to struggle.
Finding a way to embrace these mysteries of life is different for everyone. Needing help with the “struggles” of life is normal, not shameful. Ragamuffins understand this. Ragamuffins is a term I have borrowed from one of my favorite authors, Brennan Manning (Larry Crabb, Dan Allender, Phillip Yancey, John and Stacey Eldridge, Henry Nouwen along with John Stott are a few others). Like an old doll, Ragamuffins-the human kind, are beat up, worn out and appear to be useless and unwanted. Yet they are right where God wants them to be and they are extremely useful to God and very much wanted. Life has left them scared. Scared of others, scared to trust in themselves, scared of their own strategies and yes, scared to trust in God. When life has stopped working, believing in the gospel and the goodness of God can be hard. Ragamuffins understand this. Ragamuffins know what it is like to be so overwhelmed with life’s struggles that seeing the mercy and grace of God feels impossible. God is so much more understanding, so much more “for us”, so much more merciful and willing to extend grace to us than we can possibly imagine. Ragamuffins get this. Ragamuffins have learned that God is in the recycling business. Ragamuffins learn to cling to the mercy and grace of God’s goodness even when they can’t see it. It is mysterious and yet the Ragamuffin will tell you—it is where Life is. The Ragamuffin knows that he/she needs God even when they don’t want God.
Ragamuffin counseling services exist to bring people back to the mercy of God. We ask “What does it mean to live as a forgiven person?” Could it be that how we feel about God correlates directly to how we feel about others and directly affects the decisions we make in all relationships? Should the reconciling message of forgiveness in the Gospel impact every aspect of our lives? If we view God as a distant arbitrating judge, could that view of God affect intimacy issues among the ones we love? The love of God must be understood and felt. The mercy and grace of God was meant to be embraced and felt. As Brennan Manning once said “We will only trust God to the extent that we know we are loved by God.” Welcome to the world of the Ragamuffin. There are consequences to how we view God.
I am a repentant, or shall I say in the process of being a repentant, Pharisee/Elder Son. I believe there is a prodigal Son and an Elder Son in all of us and we are all called to become like the scandalous running Father passionately pursuing reconciled relationship to those who do not see the Father’s love and mercy. Along with the parable of the prodigal my model for Christian counseling is found among the ideas in John 14 where the Holy Spirit is described as being the “Counselor” who comes along side us. If you are looking for a counselor who has all the answers which will remove the “struggles” of life from your existence, then I am not your counselor. I am a fellow struggler who will “come along side you” and help you revisit the mercy of God. Counseling, in part, is taking a second look at the mercy of God and asking hard questions in the midst of our struggles.
For 28 years I have worked with people struggling with spiritual addiction, recovery from fundamentalism, legalism and “elder son” dysfunctional relational and boundaries issues. Upon graduation from Dallas Seminary and Colorado Christian University I served people with more “prodigal Son” type of issues—alcohol, cocaine, heroin and sexual addiction issues along with recovery from trauma/abuse, depression and anxiety. After 11 years in Colorado I counseled military and ex military families in the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan with the last two years serving the military families on the bases of Europe. That has been my journey. If you are wiling to enter the mysterious world of the Ragamuffin, then I look forward to hearing your journey