‘Cause I know the river is deep
I found out that the currents are tricky
And I know that the river is wide
And oh the currents are strong
And I could lose every dream
I dreamt that I could carry with me
Oh but I will reach the other side
Please don’t let me have to wait too long
Rich Mullins, “The River”
Fifteen years ago today (September 19th, 1997), on a lonely stretch of I-39 not so far from where I live and grew up, the beautiful, scandalous life of Rich Mullin came to a sudden and tragic end. I never knew Mr. Mullins personally, but he is one of those rare artists whose music communicates so evocatively, clearly, and candidly that you feel as though you know him through his music.
I have been planning to pay tribute to Rich today with some eloquent paean, some attempt to articulate what exactly made Rich so remarkable, even after all these years. I’ve tried–saving drafts, rewording, rethinking–pondering whether it was the real, exceptional commitment Rich had to knowing Christ that made Rich so remarkable. Or was it his, evocative and artful lyrics–or perhaps rather the concreteness of the images his lyrics painted–that set his music apart? Maybe its his magnetic headlong passion and commitment . . .
So I’ve been spinning my tires along these lines for a bit, and I can’t seem to come up with words worthy of honoring the life, music, and passing of Rich Mullins.
Then it struck me–that’s why I love and maybe even need his music. So many times when I’ve not had the words to express what I’m thinking, what I’m feeling, or what I want to say to God in prayer, I’ve turned to Rich’s music and lyrics. Especially in my prayers. Whether my prayer has been “everywhere I go I se you,” or “hold me Jesus,” or “I’m so scared I’m holding my breath while you’re up there just playing hard to get,” Rich has given me the words.
So today (even if it’s not “today” anymore, and the anniversary has come and gone), let me encourage you to listen to some of Rich’s old songs. The chances are, you’ll find some words that can help you express what you’re feeling, and some music that can help you feel what you’re trying to express. And, while you’re here, tell me why you think Rich is remarkable. What songs of his have become words of yours?
Rich, I’m glad you’ve reached the other side. Those of us who still live in mortal skin miss you.