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  • Writer's pictureLaura Kae

All My Filthy Rags

This is an allegorical story in which the rags represent pride. It was only this afternoon I said to a good friend on the phone, “It is like my pride is a bunch of rags. I keep trying to use them to cover my wounds, hoping no one will notice my brokenness. Somehow in all this, the story becomes about me instead of Him. If only I would accept my brokenness, and allow the story to be about Him. If only I would allow it to be about how great He is for being able to deliver me from a trash heap!” So this story was born…

The poor girl sat in the stench of her own filthiness. The trash heap surrounded her. Seldom did she look up from the ugliness of her home. Occasionally a whiff of fresh trash wafted her way. In her naiveté she thought it smelled good. It was the greatest luxury of her dull life. Every day a few times a day, she would rise upon catching a whiff of the newly delivered trash and scout out its contents. She gathered her most precious findings and took them back to her home in the back corner of the dump.

Occasionally a passerby would stop and call out to her. Sometimes they would jeer. Other times they would invite her to join them outside the dump. Seldom did she respond. Most of the time she continually looked down, keeping to herself in her own corner of the world. Truth is there were days she tried to leave the dump. People told her there was a place life was better than this. But when she did the stench followed her. People pulled up their noses at her. They turned the other way. Honestly for the most part they just tried to get away. Her nakedness, her brokenness scared them.

The world outside the trash heap did not seem so different to the girl than the trash heap. Yes, the sidewalk was smoother. But her own odor and brokenness followed her. When she did have a reason to leave the trash heap, she would cover herself with rags. At least it did something to hide the nakedness and filth. But it did little to remove her stench. She spent much of her time outside the trash heap trying to hold the rags in their various positions. She developed a limp trying to compensate for her weakness. Her muscles tightened, pulling her bones out of joint. The process was arduous and painful. Really it was much easier to stay at home – in the trash heap.

It was on a

beautiful day in early spring, she met a man she would come to call her savior. As she crippled along the highway, he called out to her. It took everything in her power to look up. When she finally straightened, he stood next to her.

“I can make you clean,” he said. “Come to my house. There you will shower and cleanse yourself until you are as fragrant as the most expensive perfume. Then I will give you a new set of clothes. They will be as clean as freshly fallen snow.”

The girl looked at him as though he were a nutcase. “You can make me clean?” she said. Doubt filled her every word. “You know what they say about me, right? Have you heard their scoffing laughs? What they think about me can only be worse than their words. This is who I am. The filth is all the way through me. It cannot be washed off.”

But the man did not go away. Nor did he spend a great deal of time arguing with her logic. “Come, and see,” he said. The invitation was open. Even when she returned to the trash heap, he followed her, sitting by its edge, letting her know when she was ready, he would be there for her. It was nearly a year before she gave in to the invitation and followed him home. When she was done washing, she never recognized herself. Her skin glowed with new life. Her hair fell in soft tendrils around her face. Her new clothes enhanced her entire being. She was beautiful.

There were small problems as she left the house that day. She walked with a limp, and she did not know where to go. He asked her to stay, said she could even live with him if she liked; but she did not want to depend on someone for her existence. “No,” she said, shaking her head softly. “I do not want to burden you, but I am so thankful for what you have done for me. Thank you so much!”

So she went out again to the streets, limping. It is true people no longer held their noses when she was in their presence, but an enormous number of them noticed her limp. Some told her she ought to be stronger and learn to walk straight. Others curiously asked her how she had acquired it. Some scoffed. Some laughed. Most scolded. One or two told her in secret they used to have one, too; but they learned how to cover it so no one could see. The latter group of people piqued the girl’s curiosity the most.

As evening fell, the girl realized she had no place to spend the night. Not quite sure what to do, she followed her natural instinct. She knew where she could sleep comfortably, so she made her way back to her corner of the dump. Now that she was clean and smelled of fresh flowers, the smell repelled her. She had to force herself to carefully pick her way over the broken glass and scattered cans to her home. It never looked so unappealing, but she could become used to it again. Everything would be okay. She carefully rearranged the garbage, placing the cleanest pieces on top, so as to soil her clothes as little as possible. Then she sat down, curled herself in a ball and slept.

It did not take long for her fellow garbage dwellers to notice something about her had changed. “You do not belong here,” they said, but the girl argued it was her home. What did they mean?

They said she did not look like them. They did not wear clean clothes like that. In their jealousy they threw more garbage at her. It stained her new clothes. With tears in her eyes, she plead with them to stop. She searched around in the garbage and found some more rags. Perhaps she could make it better. Once again she crippled through town, carefully holding the rags in their places. This time they did not cover her nakedness, only her battle scars and stained clothes. Once again the villagers pointed and laughed. How she wished she would have stayed in his home. She could not go back now. She was too embarrassed.

She made her way through town to the river. There by its banks, she placed her head in her hands and wept. It was there he found her, crying her heart out. When she saw him, she was frightened. She desperately tried to hold the rags in place, so her benefactor would not see how she had failed him. As she did so, she wept “I am sorry. I will never go back again. I am so sorry.”

He looked at her with compassion. “Come,” he said, “I can make you clean again. As clean as freshly fallen snow.”

She turned away weeping. Perhaps the raging current of the river would wash away the stains. She had created them herself; she ought to be the one who took them out.

He sat patiently by the side of the river, watching her efforts. He did not laugh at her. It seemed he understood her need for independence. Her efforts were in vain. The harder she scrubbed, the more obvious the stains seemed. The more obvious the stains seemed, the harder she scrubbed. With each passing moment, her weeping increased.

When she could take no more, she came out of the river. She knelt humbly before him. “I am so sorry,” she wept. “I cannot do it on my own.”

“I know,” he said simply. “Come.” He rose, and she followed him home. There she was cleansed from her filth. As she showered and cleaned the filth of the garbage heap and river from her skin, he laundered her clothes until they were once again as clean as freshly fallen snow.

“Stay with me,” he invited. “Stay close to my side.”

The girl did. For awhile. But one day in early winter, as she walked through the town with the man, she heard someone whisper, “She really is nothing without him. He even gave her those clothes. Notice she still even limps? Without him she would be filthy, garbage dump filthy.”

The girl heard those words. They hurt. She knew they were true. She thought about them and thought about them; and one day right after Christmas, she left his home. She ventured back into the world on her own. She could do this now. It had been a long time since she had been in the trash heap. She could live a normal life without him. It had been a long time since she needed to hold her rags in place, so her limp was nearly gone. She did her best to make it imperceptible.

The first few nights she spent by the river. She could do this on her own. She knew she could. The ground was cold and hard. Nothing like the bed in his home. Nothing like the trash in the dump. It was on the third evening she wandered past the dump, maybe it would not be so bad. She needed to do life on her own. She was a big girl. The smell of the place overwhelmed her. She took a step backwards. How had she ever lived there? She looked behind her. Did he see her? He was there. “You may come home,” he said. She shook her head. This was her life. She needed to prove she could do it.

Tentatively she took a step forward and carefully made her way to her old home. She had new neighbors. Oh well, it was probably a good thing. They would not know what she was leaving behind. “Who are you?” they said.

“I am from here,” she replied. They did not look convinced.

“You do not look like us,” they said. “You are too clean. Here mess yourself up a little.”

Then they proceeded to favor her by rubbing trash into her freshly washed clothes. She wanted to cry. Instead she clenched her jaw. She could do this. She rearranged her garbage to make herself a home and curled into a ball. She would be okay, she could do this on her own.

So it was two days later that he found her by the riverside, viciously scrubbing her clothes and skin. Perhaps this time she could do it. But once again she came to him weeping. Her filthy rags lay on the riverbank. “Why can’t I?” she said. “Why can’t I do anything without you? Why do they say without you I am nothing? I want to do it on my own. Why can’t I? I don’t want to be so broken.”

“My daughter,” he said. His voice filled with compassion. “Whether you acknowledge your brokenness or not, you will be just as broken. But if you come to me, if you walk with me, if you live with me, you do not have to cover it. I will make you clean. I will give you new clothes. I will stretch your muscles until they once again are whole and your bones are all in place. I will heal you, but you must abide with me.”

“Take your filthy rags, and toss them away. Be free from covering your own weakness. Allow others to see your own brokenness. When they see it, they will see the way I am healing you. This life is not about you, it is about me. When they see how I can heal you, my name will be made great.”

“But what about my n

ame?” she whispered. “Why can’t my name be great?”

“My daughter,” he said. “Without me your name is Destruction. But if you allow me to heal you, if you depend on me for your strength, if you allow me to redeem your reputation, you will receive a new name and you will share in the greatness of mine.”


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