Remnants of a Ragamuffin: Why the Life of Rich Mullins Should Matter To Us
The immortals of the music world echo through history in two ways. First, the music, talent that was seldom seen elsewhere; talent that drove them mad while making them famous. The other side is the deep eccentricities, the personal quirks marking each separate from any other musician. Hendrix had colorful outfits and physically abused guitars on stage, but played an electric guitar as if he invented the instrument himself. Cobain curated much of his own art and lived somewhat of a reclusive lifestyle, all while introducing America to a brand new genre of music in the 1990's.
Like many musical icons that have impacted our own personal journeys, I didn't truly discover Rich Mullins until after his passing. I knew some of his songs (child and youth groups in churches obsessed over Awesome God for quite a while in the 90's) but didn't really know much about the man or his depth of songwriting. And not until I watched the biographical film "Ragamuffin" did I understand the brokenness of the man.
Rich Mullins was not your typical contemporary Christian artist. For a man who seemed to master instruments such as the piano and dulcimer, you wouldn't have painted a picture of him being relatively edgy, lonely, and wrecked inside.
Rich lived with a continually broken relationship with his father who never appreciated his son for what he was, but rather cut him down for not being who he was "supposed" to be. On top of that, Rich had friends throughout his life who, though intentions were often harmless, left his company. This made a man who was hungry for God, but couldn't quite get Him, so he fed his desires in other means.
If Rich was an alcoholic, he did well hiding it from the outside world. It did seem a quick relief from a tortured heart of loneliness for him, no matter how successful things got. Many Christians would cringe at the thought "Awesome God" was penned with a beer in hand, but that was Rich: struggling to connect with God all while struggling with the world's demons.
These character faults, the very essence of Mullins being a lonely man who drank too much at times is not a deterrent to me. If anything, the story of Rich Mullins' life draws us in because of one simple yet utterly important word: authentic.
Rich didn't fake his disdain for worldly wealth. He didn't act like fame was a goal because it never was. He was simply a man who hated a father that he desperately longed to love. He was a man who loved a girl deeply only to be turned away via phone call. He was a man who never could fill the emptiness with human relationships, so he continued to chase after a relationship with God.
Here is where we connect with Rich. We too long for deep relationships with others. During these relationships, we often hurt or get hurt because we are simply incapable of perfect love. Through the course of life, we come to realize in our own human frailty the need for something more. That something is a fear of God, one that doesn't keep us from His glory but rather warmly embraces us in His love, much like the abandoned orphan experiencing the love of a family for the first time.
Watch the Rich Mullins biopic "Ragamuffin". Watch it not because you want to see the meteoric rise of a Christian artist who wrote a few big hits. Watch it because you need to see another person struggle in perhaps the same way you do, wrestling for faith and love. Grasping for that authentic relationship with your Glorious Creator who longs to know you. A Creator who, like one of Mullins' most popular songs, has been your King of Glory, and now you want to be your Prince of Peace.