Rich Mullins remembered – 18 years later

Rich ticket stub

songs still speaking beyond the years, beyond the scars

Eighteen years ago, life changed in more ways than I would have predicted. On July 30, I received a diagnosis for multiple sclerosis. On August 14, my heart was lightened as I attended an absolutely wonderful concert. Rich Mullins had been my very favorite musical artist for a while already – this was likely my fifteenth of his concerts. In fact, I wrote a review for an email list, as I was very touched by Rich’s words and music. But after August came September, and I received a phone call the evening of September 19 that caused my heart to drop.

My younger brother called to share news he had just heard on the radio: Rich Mullins had been in a car accident… and he had died almost immediately. His song “Elijah,” and my high school photo essay, flashed  through my mind. As I leaned against a large oak tree in our back yard, a few silent tears trickled down as I stared into the clear, starry sky.

But this was eighteen years ago. Last year, a new piece of Rich’s legacy was shared in the form of an independent film, Ragamuffin.  Like any story, Rich’s true tale was multifaceted, and the movie does share some of Rich’s scars that were not outwardly evident on this multi-talented musician, poet, speaker, writer. The lyrics of “Hold me, Jesus” ring even truer as we get a glimpse of Rich’s inner struggles.

and I wake up in the night and feel the dark
it’s so hot inside my soul
I swear there must be blisters on my heart

so hold me Jesus, ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
won’t You be my Prince of Peace

Each of us does have “invisible issues” of some kind, and I’m thankful to Rich for being willing share some of his struggles, to admit of the “blisters on his heart.” And to remind us where true peace comes from.

“That’s what the promise is for”

It’s hard to believe that it’s been sixteen years since T.R. and I shared those vows, since we dressed up (he in a tux, me in a lacy white dress), while other close friends and family members wore particular matching things they rented or never wore again anyhow… but wow, sixteen years!  This seems like a drop in the bucket on one hand but quite a long time on another, when we look back at what those sixteen years have held: jobs, moves, graduate school, children, chronic illness, family and friends who have brought both joy and heaviness to our hearts… and I just heard a new song last week that encapsulated this all so beautifully.

Andrew Peterson is a writer and musician whose new album “Counting Stars” is to be released later this month, and the song “Dancing in the Mine Fields” was released online with a loving, moving video.  I find it ironic that T.R. and I are both graduates of a relatively conservative university where social dancing was not allowed, but our journey has still been one of “dancing in the mine fields, sailing in the storms.”  I love the closing sentiment of the touching song: “Well, this is harder than I dreamed, but I believe that’s what the promise is for.” 

Our rings weren’t from the pawn shop down the road, and our ages were slightly different than those in the lyrics, but the visualization of lifelong love is one that is so accurate.  At least so far. 

“Well,’I do’ are the two most famous last words
the beginning of the end.
But to lose your life for another, I’ve heard,
is a good place to begin.
‘Cause the only way to find your life
is to lay your own life down,
and I believe it’s an easy price
for the life that we have found.”

Our life does seem at times to be one of “dancing in the minefields,” which is precarious by definition. But as the song so beautifully states, I believe that’s an easy price to pay for the life that we have found.  We did take those sacred vows, and I agree with all my heart with the thesis of this beautiful musical poem: that’s what the promise is for.  Happy sixteenth anniversary, T.R.!