I was recently reminded of a story that I'd heard many years ago when I was first saved. This story is called "The Ragman" from the book "Ragman and other cries of Faith" by Walter Wangerin, an American Lutheran Pastor and writer.
I thought I'd share it with you, hope it ministers to you as it did to me.
Even before the dawn one Friday morning I noticed a young man, handsome and strong walking the alleys of our city. he was pulling an old cart filled with clothes both bright and new and he was calling in a clear tenor voice; "Rags! New rags for old! I take your tired rags! Rags!"
"Now this a wonder" I thought to myself, for the man stood six feet four and his arms were like tree limbs, hard and muscular, and his eyes flashed intellegent. Could he find no better job than this, to be a ragman in the inner city?
I followed him. My curiosity drove me. And I wasn't disappointed Soon the Ragman stopped his cart. Quietly he walked to the woman stepping round tin cans, dead toys and pampers.
"Give me you rag" he said so gently, "and I'll give you another." He slipped the handkercheif from her eyes. She looked up, and he laid across her palm a linen cloth so clean and new that it shined. She blinked from the gift to the giver.
Then as he began to pull his cart again, the Ragman did a strange thing, he put her stained handkercheif to his own face, and then he began to weep to sob as greivously as she had done, his shoulders shaking. Yet she was left without a tear.
"This is a wonder." I breathed to myself and I followed the sobbing Ragman like a child who cannot turn away from mystery.
"Rags! Rags! New rags for old!"
In a little while, when the sky showed grey behind the rooftops and I could see the shredded curtains hanging out black windows the Ragman came upon a girl whole head was wrapped in a bandage. A single line of blood ran down her cheek.
Now the tall Ragman looked upon this child with pity, and he drew a lovely yellow bonnet from his cart.
"Give me your rag" he said tracing his own line on her cheek, an I'll give you mine."
The Child could only gaze at him while he loosened the bandage, removed it, and tied it to his own head. The bonnet he set on hers. An I gasped at what I saw; for with the bandage went the wound! Against his brow it ran a darker, more substantial blood, his own.
"Rags! Rags! I take old rags! cried the sobbing, bleeding strong intellegent Ragman.
The sun hurt both the sky, now, and my eyes, the Ragman seemed more and more to hurry.
"Are you going to work?" he asked a man who leaned against a telephone pole. The man shook his head.
The Ragman pressed him: "Do you have a job?"
"Are you crazy?" sneered the other. He pulled away from the pole revealing the right sleeve of his jacket - flat - the cuff stuffed into the pocket. He had no arm.
"So" said the Ragman. "Give me your jacket, and I'll give you mine." Such quiet authority in his voice.
The one-armed man took off his jacket. So did the Ragman - and - I trembled at what I saw for the Ragman's arm stayed in it's sleeve, and whn the other put it on he had two good arms, thick as tree limbs, but the Ragman had only one.
"Go to work" he said.
After that he found a drunk lying unconscious beneath an army blanket, an old man, hunched, wizened and sick. He took that blanket and wrapped it round himself but for the drunk he left new clothes.
And now I had to run to keep up with the Ragman. Though he was weeping uncontrollably and bleeding freely at the forehead, pulling his cart with one arm, stumbling for drunkenness falling again and again, exhausted, old and sick, yet he went with terrible speed. On spiders legs, he skitted through the alleys of the city; this mile and the next, until he came to it's limits, and then he rushed beyond.
I wept to see the change in this man; hurt to see his sorrow. And yet I needed to see where he was going in such haste, perhaps to know what drove him so.
The little old Ragman - he came to a landfall. He came to the garbage pits and then I wanted to help him in what he did, but I hung back hiding. He climbed a hill, with tormented labour he cleared a little space on that hill. Then he sighed. He lay down He pillowed his head on a handkerchief and a jacket. He covered his bones with an army blanket. And he died.
Oh, how I cried to witness that death, I slumped in ajunked car and wailed and mourned as one who has no hope - because I had come to love the Ragman. Every other face had faded in the wonder of this man, and I cherished him, but he died. I sobbed myself to sleep.
I did not know - how could I know - that I slept through Friday night and Saturday and it's night too.
But then on Sunday morning I was awakened by a violence.
Light pure, hard, demanding light,- slammed against my sour face and I blinked, and I looked, and I saw the last and the first wonder of all. There was the Ragman, folding the blanket most carefully, scar on his forehead, but alive. And besides that healthy. There was no sign of sorrow nor of age, and all the rags that he had gathered shined for cleanliness.
Well, then I lowered my head and trembling for all that I had seen I myself walked up to the Ragman. I told him my name with shame, for I was a sorry figure next to him. Then I took off all my clothes in that place, and I said to him with dear yearning in my voice. "Dress me".
He dressed me. My Lord, he put new rags on me, and I am a wonder beside him.
The Ragman, the Ragman, the Christ!
So is there anything you want to give "The Ragman?"
Why not do it today? Why not let Him dress you?
Scriptures - Psalm 55:22, Matthew 5:20, 1 Peter 5:7, Luke 12:22, Philippians 4:6-7, 2 Corinthians 1:10, Romans 8:31, Ephesians 1:7-8, Galatians 3:13, John 10:10.
"The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil." (1 John 3:8)
God Bless you all and have a great week!