I have loved the music and ministry of Rich Mullins for years. Not the pop Christian “Awesome God” Rich, but the broken, ragamuffin, rebel against the system Rich. The Rich that looked you in your religious face and dared to challenge your churchy beliefs. Not many artists today get it like he did.
His life and music has been an influence in my life since I became a Christian in 1993.
The tragedy of his death in 1997 still makes me wonder why he was called home so early. If he was still here with us today would he be as great an influence alive as he is in his passing….maybe…maybe not.
Maybe his death was God’s way to take his legacy and use it in ways that being alive wasn’t possible.
I recently watched “Ragamuffin” the movie based upon Rich’s life and discovered a side of him I didn’t know existed. Rich battled some demons. From the lack of affirmation and love from his father, to the rejection of the girl of his dreams. He struggled with relationships, self esteem and never feeling like he measured up or deserved God’s love. He was rude at times, arrogant, self righteous and hypocritical. He struggled. He failed. He was honest with his struggles. He was ashamed of his shortcomings. He lived with regrets. He often ran away from problems yet he tried desperately hard to find the love and acceptance that seemed to evade him.
I had always viewed Rich as this spiritual giant. A “radical” Christian way before being radical was cool for Christians to be “radical”. He was a hero of the faith. Had it all together. Never struggled…
But what I have discovered is….(gasp)….he was human…..
I am by no means comparing myself to Rich Mullins. He was an amazingly talented and gifted man. He accomplished more for the kingdom in his short life(41 years) than I can comprehend…but there are some similarities. We both had long hair in the 80s. We both went through identity crisis. We both battled demons. When it comes to having a painful void that wasn’t filled during childhood and early adulthood…I am like Rich. When it comes to struggling with relationships, self esteem and never feeling like you measure up, I am like Rich. When it comes to constantly wondering why an awesome God could love a wretch like me…I am like Rich….I am…(gasp)….human.
The movie was difficult at times to watch because it exposed sides of me that are painful, yet I found comfort knowing that people I look up to as spiritual mentors struggle too. Not that I find comfort in peoples struggles but to know I’m not alone. Toward the end of his life, Rich found truth, healing and acceptance in the love of Jesus. It was through this relentless love of Christ, he found the peace he’d been so desperately searching for.
We are fragile beings. We have emotional baggage that we’ve carried for years. We have limitations.We are human. That’s where the grace of Jesus comes sweeping in. Jesus is not fragile, emotionally driven or limited by anything. He is not human. He is superhuman, supreme, sovereign and ruler of everything. Jesus is simply all we need.
Another way I discovered that I am like Rich is in the way I want to leave this world. Not in the physical death(even tho we don’t have a choice), but in the way he found no attachment with this place. It’s from his shunning of earthly desires he penned these words to his song “Elijah”:
“The Jordan is waiting for me to cross through
My heart is aging I can tell
So Lord, I’m begging
For one last favor from You
Here’s my heart take it where You will
This life has shown me how we’re mended
And how we’re torn
How it’s okay to be lonely as long as you’re free
Sometimes my ground was stoney
And sometimes covered up with thorns
And only You could make it what it had to be
And now that it’s done
Well, if they dressed me like a pauper
Or if they dined me like a prince
If they lay me with my fathers
Or if my ashes scatter on the wind
I don’t care
But when I leave I want to go out like Elijah
With a whirlwind to fuel my chariot of fire
And when I look back on the stars
Well, It’ll be like a candlelight in Central Park
And it won’t break my heart to say goodbye”….
“Elijah Ascending” by Michael Bogdanow
The mantra of many(lost and saved) in our nation is “this is the best country in the world!”… maybe it is…maybe it isn’t…We base our opinions off our freedoms, resources, sports teams and military might. We base our happiness off our stuff and maybe that’s why so many people are miserable, Christians included. We live in a fallen, evil, sinful world and even while Christ compels us not to “store up treasures” here on earth, we dig in even deeper and hold onto the things that will one day be destroyed. If this is the best we’ve got and if this is what we cling to and take pride in, well…we should be pitied.
I have been here on planet earth eight years longer than Rich got to live and I would so trade places with him. When I hear him sing “Elijah”, I get homesick…
Yep, when I leave I want to go out like Rich, who wanted to go out like Elijah…
And it won’t break my heart to say goodbye.