On  the 25th anniversary of Rich Mullins’ death in 1997, I was reading some articles by people he had influenced.  My memory of his music was stirred, music from the 80’s and early 90’s that still touches me today.  As Bethel McGrew observed, Mullins would “have defied easy categorization in today’s Christian culture wars.” Mullins was indeed a “ragamuffin” Christian for Brennan Manning’s “Ragamuffin Gospel” for people of faith who are among “the bedraggled, beat-up and burnt-out.”

Mullins “was flawed and broken, every bit the raggamuffin he claimed to be and more.  But he told us the truth as he could see it,” noted Russell Moore.  Andrew Greer and Randy Cox wrote about the tension Mullins felt with the evangelical establishment of his time. “Rich chafed against the paint-by-numbers parameters of the gospel music industry.  From his ragamuffin perspectiven, his choice was clear: he could either appease the mass-market demands of a religiously ‘right’ constituency by softening his creed and diluting his dialogue or he could appeal to people’s heart through honest and human exchange.”

In my early days of spiritual growth, Mullins’ appeal was two-fold for me.   First, as Greer and Cox observed, Mullins appealed to the heart.  He knew and expressed emotional and spiritual suffering.  His songs expressed these sentiments.  The second aspect of Mullin’s influence on me was his searching for spirituality within the Catholic tradition (an asymptotic catholic).  He was positioned as a kind of “folk theologian in the space between Protestantism and Catholicism.”

There are several songs that I especially remember.  The first Awesome God, which was almost anthem during the height the the charismatic movement.  Both Judy and I have fond memories of those days.  It is a simple refrain: “Our God is an awesome God/He reigns from heaven above/With wisdom, power, and love/Our God is an awesome God.”  I can almost hear a large crowd singing this with all their might.

The second is Hold Me Jesus.  It is a haunting song of spiritual struggle.  I identified with Mullins’ struggle in this.  One verse goes: “Surrender don’t come natural to me/I’d rather fight You for something I don’t really want/Than to take what You give that I need/And I’ve beat my head against so many walls/Now I’m falling down I’m falling on my knees.”  Wow.  I still identify with these words.

The chorus brings back a lot of memories: “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.” I remember identifying with “the leaf.”  It described my heart condition.  I was only learning to put my hand on my heart and look up to Jesus and cry for mercy.  Thank you, Jesus, for Rich Mullins’ vulnerability.

The third song is If I Stand.  I can still identify deeply with the chorus.  “So if I stand let me stand on the promise/That you will pull me through/And if I can’t, let me fall on the grace/That first brought me to You/And if I sing let me sing for the joy/That has born in me these songs/And if I weep let it be as a man/Who is longing for his home.”

Wow!  How often I still  have to “fall on the grace” that brought me to Jesus in the beginning.  I am thankful that God has given me the gift of tears, to weep over my own sins.  While I continue to journey, now on the homeward stretch, I long for home and for what is yet to come.  Thank you, Rich Mullins, for your influence in my life.