Jesus loved to tell a good parable to his followers for many reasons. This little parable tells the story of a Father's unrelenting love for a little ragamuffin girl and her redemption through that love. Do you see yourself in this story?
Why a Parable?
Parable, as defined by Webster, is usually short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle. Jesus used parables a lot of the time when speaking to his followers. There was the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7), the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14) , the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), and so many more.
Why did Jesus use so many parables in his teaching? Scripture mentions several reasons, but Jesus tells his disciples one reason he uses parables in his teaching is to separate those who had rejected him from those who had accepted him. To his disciples, the parables revealed deep and great truths, but to those who had rejected his teaching, they were just stories.
A parable was also a sort of secret code between Jesus and his disciples. Jesus was under close watch by people who did not like what he taught. The Pharisees were constantly listening and watching for Jesus to say something incriminating so they could have him arrested. Jesus told his disciples, “This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” (Matthew 13:13)
Another thing which happens when we read a parable is we can often find ourselves in the story somewhere. A prime example is in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). In this parable, we can often identify with one of the three main characters at various points of our lives.
The following is a little parable I wrote based upon my own life and struggles with receiving the relentless, unconditional love of my Poppa, God. I felt led to share it with you and hope that someone will be blessed by reading it.
The Parable of the Ragamuffin Girl and Poppa
The little orphan girl ducked her head and gently bit her bottom lip as she peered at him from beneath her long eyelashes. She quickly averted her gaze downward when he smiled at her, and then tried to cover one little foot with the other when she noticed how dirty they were.
What was she thinking? How could she have been foolish enough to think he would want to have anything to do with her at all? She was a ragamuffin of a girl, her curly hair sticking up all over the place, face smeared with a mixture of chocolate and dirt painted with streaks where tears had escaped her eyes. How could this beautiful man want to have anything to do with her, let alone want to be her Poppa?
He knelt in front of her, arms open and eyes alive with love. Inviting her. It was not in his nature to force her to come to him. Instead, he waited.
She wanted so badly to run into his arms and shout, “Poppa, I love you!” But every time she considered it, every time she dared step toward him, she heard a voice in her head telling her she’d be better off staying right where she was. Look at you! You’re a hot mess! Your hands are filthy from digging through the garbage. Your clothes are rags. You are not worthy! The things you have done in your life are unforgivable! He does not want you!
So, she turned away and left.
She knew what she needed to do! She would clean herself up and then go back to him. The voice was right! The man was much too lovely to want to even look at a mess like her, let alone love her. She would do whatever it took to make herself acceptable to be his daughter.
So, she tried. First, she got some new clothes and tried to wash herself off. She worked hard in school to make good grades. Anything she was asked to do, she willingly agreed to. She followed all the rules and chastised herself when she failed to do things perfectly.
But the little girl remained dirty. No matter how hard she scrubbed or how many nice things she did, underneath it all, she was still the same. Just a dirty little girl who no one could possibly love.
The strangest thing, though, was that everywhere she looked, he was there. That beautiful man, kneeling, with his strong arms outstretched; that same loving glimmer in his eyes. His voice whispering her name was constant in her ear. Who was this man, and why was he relentlessly pursuing her? How could he possibly want her as his daughter?
Until one day, she could deny him no longer. She knew she loved the man and wanted his love. She told him she loved him and believed in him and would be such a good girl and do all the right things.
But in no time, she had messed up again, lying or cussing or breaking some other rules. The shame of her mistakes and the disgrace of her appearance were more than she could bear. He surely did not realize what a dreadful girl she was, or he would not want anything to do with her! Maybe if she avoided him, she would not have to be so ashamed.
So, she did just that. She could love him from a distance, couldn’t she? Then he wouldn’t be able to see how dirty she was while she worked to get clean again. She continued to avoid him, watching him out of the corner of her eye, saying, “Hi” every once in a while.
And she continued to try everything she could think of to make herself presentable to the man. She worked even harder. She did more nice things for people, trying so hard to be a good girl, but she just could never be enough!
One day, the little girl, now a woman in her middle ages, grew weary of all her attempts to be better and clean herself up. She had done everything she knew to do to make herself worthy of his love. It was useless! Try as she might, she knew she would never be good enough to be his daughter.
In her despair, she fell to her knees and began to weep. Her tears quickly turned to wailing, and she began calling his name. Desperately, she cried out to him, her soul in anguish, until she heard a gentle whisper in her ear.
My daughter. Why are you so sad? I have loved you since before you were conceived. I have called you from your mother’s womb and given you a new name. You are my beloved daughter.
“But I am filthy,” she cried. “Just look at me! I’ve tried everything, and I’m still just a ragamuffin little girl deep down.”
“You are my beloved,” said the man. “I have chosen you and not rejected you. I created you and love you just as you are. You don’t need to clean yourself up and then come to me. My desire is that you come to me and let me make you a new creation. Let me clean you up.”
Her sobbing began to subside as she wiped her face with her dirty hands.
“Really?” she asked.
Without ever taking his eyes off her, he nodded and replied, “Really.”
The Arms of Love
He knelt down in front of her as he had done so many times before, one foot tucked underneath him as he rested his right arm on the same knee. With outstretched arms, he beckoned her with his eyes, “Come here, my precious daughter,” he said, “I know every single thing about you and love you, not in spite of it, but because of it.”
Broken, she found herself falling into his open arms. Burying her face into his chest, she cried, “Poppa! I’ve been looking for you my entire life!”
As he folded her into his loving embrace, placing his hand on the back of her head, he said, “My beloved daughter, I have been here all along. I’ve been waiting on you to come home.”
They remained there for a long time. The Father and his daughter. She breathed in his scent and felt the strength and security of his embrace. He held her closely, whispering of his love as he stroked her hair.
At last, she reluctantly pulled away from him and looked into his eyes. Those eyes! Eyes that held more love than she could ever imagine. Eyes through which she could see her own reflection.
But wait! Something was different! In his eyes, she saw how different she looked now. She was spotless! Her dark brown hair no longer stuck up from her head like she had stuck her finger in an electrical socket, but lay in beautiful, silky waves framing her face. Her face, once stained and streaked, now glowed with his light. The light of his love.
She looked down at her body and saw that her rags had been replaced with a lovely spotless white dress. Her hands and feet had been washed clean!
“But, why?” she asked. “Why did you continue to pursue me when I rejected you? Why didn’t you just give up on me?”
“Oh, my precious daughter,” he replied, “My love is steadfast and my mercies unending. I love you so much that I sacrificed my one and only Son so that you could become my daughter. I am Love; never-ending Love, but I will not force myself upon you. The choice to receive or reject me is yours to make.”
“Oh, how I desire to receive your love, but what if I mess up again?” she cried. “What if I get dirty again?”
He cupped her face in his strong hands, looked into her eyes and assured her, “You can never do anything to undo my love for you, sweet child. I will never leave you nor forsake you. You are mine forever.”
She fell back into his arms and began to weep again. This time, the tears were not full of sorrow, but rather a joy she had never known. She rejoiced and basked in his love, as he tenderly and carefully pieced her shattered heart back together.
When he had finished mending her heart, he told her he wanted her to go and tell others what he had done for her.
“But, Poppa!” she cried, “I don’t want to leave you! May I please stay right here with you? I’m afraid! What if they laugh at me? What if I fail?”
As he pointed to her heart, he assured her, “I am right here with you. You see, when I was repairing your broken heart, a part of me remained to be your guide. You will hear my voice whispering in your heart to direct your path. Just be still and listen. And when you call me, I will be there. You will never be alone again.”
She believed him. She stood tall, shoulders back, chin up, and said, “I will do whatever you want me to do. Wherever you lead, I will follow.”
“That’s my girl!” He grabbed her in a big hug and instructed her to tell others what he had done for her. “There are others who have experienced the same hurt as you; who do not feel worthy of my love. Tell them about me. They will listen to you.”
“I will do whatever you ask, Poppa,” she assured him. And she began her journey to share the Good News.