The Man Who Sang Me Home

New Movie on the Life of Rich Mullins

New Movie on the Life of Rich Mullins

I first heard his music in a Christian bookstore back in the eighties when the only way to listen to new music was to sample it in the store or hear it in church. Christian Contemporary music (CCM) did not have the advantage of its secular counterpart: playtime on multiple radio stations, so songs and singers were far less known. Oh the hours I spent in my favorite Christian superstore looking for deep theological reflection and profound devotional commitment… mostly to no avail. More often what I heard was pop cultural leftovers, bands that were supposed to be the “Christian equivalent” of bands in the world, but were merely derivative and therefore inferior to what the world produced. I was lost in this sea of spin-off artistry, desperate to find an authentic voice, someone who did not have to imitate the world and sprinkle their lyrics with God-speak to sell records to gullible, culture-starved believers. And that’s when I heard Rich Mullins, who not only inspired me with his authentic witness for Christ, but showed me the way home into apostolic Christianity.

 

A new movie about his life brought me back to that first moment that I heard him sing. Ragamuffin tells the tale of a young farm-boy from Indiana struggling with his identity and his relationship with a hard working father that cannot fully respect his love for music. Daddy issues and Rich’s disillusionment with the hypocrisy of contemporary Christianity drive him into fits of depression and a struggle with alcoholism. But eventually he meets a pastor whose preaching and unapologetic honesty about himself and other people convert Mullins to what he calls a ragamuffin gospel, a Christianity that exults in human weakness and humble dependence on Jesus. One of Rich’s songs from this period drives home the message:

Well, it took the hand of God Almighty
To part the waters of the sea
But it only took one little lie
To separate you and me
Oh, we are not as strong as we think we areAnd they say that one day Joshua
He made the sun stand still in the sky
But I can’t even keep these thoughts
Of you from passing by
Oh, we are not as strong as we think we areWe are frail, we are fearfully and wonderfully made
Forged in the fires of human passion
Choking on the fumes of selfish rage
And with these our hells and our heavens, so few inches apart
We must be awfully small and not as strong as we think we areAnd the Master said, their faith was
Gonna make them mountains move
But me, I tremble like a hill on a fault line
Just at the thought of how I lost you
Oh, we are not as strong as we think we are

But we are frail, we are fearfully and wonderfully made
Forged in the fires of human passion
Choking on the fumes of selfish rage
And with these our hells and our heavens, so few inches apart
We must be awfully small and not as strong as we think we are

And if you make me laugh, I know I could make you like me
‘Cause when I laugh I can be a lot of fun
But we can’t do that I know that it is frightening
What I don’t know is why we can’t hold on
We can’t hold on

It took the hand of God Almighty
To part the waters of the sea
But it only took one little lie
To separate you and me
Oh, we are not as strong as we think we are

When you love you walk on the water
Just don’t stumble on the waves
We all want to go there somethin’ awful
But to stand there it takes some grace
‘Cause oh, we are not as strong as we think we are
No, we are not as strong as we think we are

Walk on the water
[Incomprehensible]
Walk on the water
If we can just hold on
Just hold on

Songs like this one kept me company on the long ride from my college dorm to the Orthodox Church where I was attending and receiving catechesis. When doubts arose about my path to Orthodoxy, Rich’s lyrics like the words of G.K. Chesterton kept driving me home. Imagine my joy and delight when I discovered recently how much Rich loved Chesterton, especially his book Orthodoxy which is mentioned briefly in the movie. May his memory be eternal, and may his songs that point like an arrow to heaven lead many more to their true home in heaven.

3 thoughts on “The Man Who Sang Me Home

  1. Thanks Aaron!

    I share a very similar story. Rich has immeasurably shaped my perspective. I hope that one day I am Orthodox, because among many other qualities, I see such continuity there with the Ragamuffin paradigm.

    Email me when you get a chance.

    Be God’s,
    Nathan

  2. The only song of his that I know is this one:

    and I know it because of Jars of Clay:

    because Jars of Clay introduced me to what conscious devotion to Christ looks like, and I fell in love with their music before bothering to listen to much to their lyrics — but by then, it was too late for me, I think; I had already taken the bait, and loved it, and when the tug on the line came, I was too much in love with the bait to give up the hook.

  3. Pingback: Best of the Best in 2014 | Like Mendicant Monks…

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