We have devotions every morning before we ride. At the beginning of this trip, Ryan did a devotion in which he told us a story about the Rag Man.
At the end of the story Ryan gave each of the riders a rag to tie to our ankle, allowing us to decide what that rag will mean to us, knowing to some it meant a commitment to the Fuller Center. While others it meant a commitment to Jesus.
I put the rag on, and wasn’t sure what it was what that rag represented to me. I realized at that moment I couldn’t wear it and feel like I was being honest. So I took it off and hid it deep inside my bag.
This trip has been hard. So hard. There are the obvious challenges like climbing the Rockies or the inevitable headwinds but there were also many other things that made this trip hard. Every day, we get on our bikes and pedal hoping to reach the next destination safely. We have (unfortunately) had constant reminders on this trip just exactly how dangerous what we are doing is. We have had a few too many close calls on this trip, but so far we have all ended up ok. And while we couldn’t be more thankful for that, the constant reminder of how dangerous this trip is has been a heavy weight to carry.
I began to realize why I couldn’t wear this rag. It didn’t represent my commitment to Jesus or my commitment to the Fuller Center. That rag did represent Jesus, but Jesus had become more synonymous with pain than hope. To wear that rag around my ankle was a constant reminder of how broken I had become, and I couldn’t face that.
There was only one solution.
I decided I wanted to burn our rags, and Alyssa consented to burning hers along with me.(nothing against the Rag Man) We wanted to liberate ourselves from this stupid rag, we were tired of this brokenness weighing down on our lives.
So we found a lighter and went outside to find a safe place to burn the rag. Just as every good rag-burning has, we conducted a brief ceremony. During our ceremony we came to realize that something about burning our rags seemed wrong. It seemed like the easy way out, like we weren’t actually fixing anything. Our rags would be gone, but our brokenness would still be very much intact. At this point we decided the only way out was through our brokenness and we could not run through fire, but we also knew we couldn’t do it alone.
So instead of burning the rags, we took each other’s rags.
I now wear not my rags but Alyssa’s.
The weight seems a little lighter.
Here is my attempt of explaining why I now wear this rag.
I was given a rag
Our need for each other
Our need to be picked up and carried
By others who love us
I was told
Jesus loves us
But I couldn’t believe it
I was lost and afraid in the darkness
And Jesus was far away
Somehow I found hope
It was not Jesus
Who journeyed into the dark
Took my hand
And cried with me
It was not Jesus who heard my story
It was you,
Who restored that hope
Jesus,You had left me.
I was lost and afraid
I cried for you, over and over
And when it was all seemingly
You somehow came back
You came to me in the love of your people
It was a new you
Not in the Jesus I used to know you
In this Jesus, justice was real
I fought so hard to keep you out Jesus
Because the old you kept creeping back in
And I hate the old you.
I despise the old you,
Of false hope
But the real you
The one who loves justice
And walks humbly with God,
I can commit to that Jesus
I can commit to a Jesus who walks with the marginalized
And cries with the broken hearted
If that is who Jesus is.
If Jesus is in community
If Jesus is in laughter
I can do that Jesus
I do not burn this rag
I instead commit to walking with others
To mourn the pain
The old Jesus has caused
So with this rag I commit
To living this life
Walking in solidarity