Richard Wayne Mullins was a Quaker on a campus full of Bible-thumping conservatives where we met; I was an agnostic--a pagan, he politely called me--yet the friendship we forged was unforgettable.
When you think about it, agreeing is something you do in the beginning of a friendship. You can only safely disagree with someone you really trust.
Maybe we loved to argue so much because we started out defending such different points of view. And there really isn't much else to do on a Bible College campus. Study, go to class, eat, argue. Listen to Richard play his music, take a walk together, argue some more.
Even after I converted, arguing remained one of our favorite things to do. No mean, harsh quarelling about disappointed expectations--Just healthy, playful, creative disagreement on just about any topic we could think of, mixed with lots of laughter. The more passionately we defended our points of view, the better. We stretched every point to the extreme, shifted the platform of the argument until we threw it right off balance and brought it back again, quoted every scripture we could think of on the subject, then at last he'd change the topic. I would be amazed to think he'd let me have the last word. Such a gentleman! It was marvelous.
I'd forget about the whole thing.
Then the next time he had a concert, he'd sing back a song he'd just written that topped every point I'd made, turned a corner around every point of view we'd raised, and pulled enough distance from the issue that you could see that beyond every thought, running through matter, time and space, the only argument is love.
You can never argue with one of Richard’s songs. I dare you to try.
Rich Mullins went on to become a Christian celebrity. Perhaps that’s understating it. Some would like to have him beatified, so I guess now that a movie's coming out you could say he’s become a Christian icon.
That would have made him laugh, not because it’s a great joke--just because I said it.
He loved to laugh.
Me, I went on to be a spectacular Christian failure: a cult member, survivor of an abusive marriage, mother of three children who each became suicidal at some point early in life. Then when Richard died, I stopped going to church altogether because once inside a church, I could not stop crying. I did everything I could to forget him in an effort to ease the pain.
My spiritual path after Richard died might be considered New Age. I struggled to comprehend the meaning of intuition but Richard never had any problem balancing the mundane and the metaphysical. He managed to keep it all in the context of his Christian faith. He wasn’t afraid of anyone’s beliefs. Richard’s life gives me hope that there is sense beyond our senses and there are reasons past reasoning. I learned the God who Richard knew is bigger than the labels we try to fasten to him or the box we try to put him in.
Now that I’m back to remembering him, I cry. I know I’m an awful sight when I’m crying. But that never bothered Richard, because he loved to see me cry. Not because he was cruel, but because he liked me to listen to his songs. When he played his songs, he tried for tears, not applause. If the song didn’t make me cry the first time I heard it, he’d re-write it till it did.
Together we laughed and cried. Richard knew both laughter and tears are a gift and a sign of grace. He never hung back from the joy and sorrow we found in our friendship.