Being slammed with the flu this week availed to me the pleasure of doing nothing, lounging guiltlessly. Floors need mopping? Who cares. Carpets to vacuum? So what. Hubby hungry? Order delivery. Achy and feverish, I did not have concentration to read but was well able to watch. I turned to The ‘Pure Flix’ cable subscription – its educational programming includes biographies of godly men and women.
Amy Carmichael, Corrie Ten Boom, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Florence Nightingale are worthy to esteem and study. They lived sacrificial lives, walking with a burden from God. They were divinely appointed to their call and were relentless in fulfilling God’s purpose in spite of severe opposition and tremendous suffering. Their focused hearts precluded worldly and temporal distractions. They did not marry nor did they value any possession. They were people broken by God, vessels through whom He poured out His love.
The biography of Rich Mullins is quite different. He was a gifted songwriter, singer and musician however it is doubtful that many would include him in the same ‘hall of fame’. His songs touched lives deeply, often moving them towards the Lord. Mullins’ connected with people’s despair and struggles. When my brother was terminally ill, he found much comfort and encouragement in Rich Mullins songs.
Mullins, however, was not the pinnacle of holiness. His biography, Ragamuffin, produced by his brother David, portrays a deeply troubled inner life, stemming from an emotionally abusive father. Mullins had a relentless quest to know God and apprehend His love, his music was an expression of that search for and worship of God.
When discovered and launched into the world of ‘Christian entertainment’ his success led to a growing discontentment. Christian ‘entertainment’, ‘prosperity’ and ‘celebrity status’ were hollow goals that Mullins rejected as antithetical to the Savior he sought. Inner turmoil and battles with depression and alcoholism were constants in Mullins’ life, a well loved but alienated man.
The shallowness of American Christianity weighed heavy upon Rich. Although financially successful, he arranged a very modest income of approximately $20,000 for himself, allotting the rest to specific charities such as Compassion International. He finally drew away from ‘Christian entertainment’ and moved to the Navajo Indian Reservation to teach music to their youth.
So why might this emotionally tormented, depressed – sometimes disheveled and irreverent – Christian musician be included in a Believers Hall of Fame? Because, in spite of being an “emotionally tormented, depressed” and “alienated” Christian, he never gave up his quest to know the love of God. He battled alcoholism and loneliness but never squelched his gift to exalt the Lord. Mullins continued to praise and worship until his death in 1997.
Rich Mullins had a word for the suicidal, the downcast, and alienated who desperately needed the Lord. Perhaps it takes great inner resolve, even courage, to exalt and praise the Lord when your heart is crushed and your mind oppressed. A broken man, Rich Mullins gave his life to the Lord and continues to minister to us through music and song.
“If I want to identify fully with Jesus Christ, whom I claim to be my Savior and Lord, the best way I can do that is to identify with the poor. Christianity is about learning to love as Jesus loved. Jesus loved the poor. And Jesus loved the broken.” (Rich Mullins)
“God takes the junk of our lives and makes the greatest art out of it.” (Rich Mullins)