Saturday evening my dear, sweet wife and I watched the movie, "Ragamuffin," a biopic about the life of singer & songwriter, Rich Mullins, the man who wrote "Awesome God," "Sing Your Praise to the Lord," and a host of many other wonderful songs.
In my former life in radio broadcasting I met Mullins a couple of times at Gospel Music Week that was held each April in Nashville. It was four days of meetings, seminars and concerts and other events, mostly sponsored by Christian music companies.
I met Mullins the first time shortly after he released his first self-titled project. He was at the Reunion Records booth and I happened there when there weren't too many people milling about. We made eye contact and he greatly me warmly. He wanted to know where I was from and what my expectations were for the week. He couldn't have been nicer. I came away genuinely impressed. Mullins did not seem to be on an ego trip like many of the other Christian music artists I'd met. I really became an admirer of him and his music.
It was a few years later that I had another close encounter with Mullins, again at his record company's booth. But I noticed a difference. His whole demeanor has changed. He acted as if it were a chore for him to be there. His greetings were perfunctory. The friendly guy with the easy smile seemed sullen and behaved as if he were being punished by having to be there. It was hard not to wonder, "What happen to this guy?"
Mullins died on September 19, 1997 in an automobile accident. It seemed that he had been taken away from us much too quickly. He had just finished a batch of songs that he hoped to record, all of them focused on the life of Jesus. A cassette recording of Mullins singing the songs on an out-of-tune piano was released posthumously.
"Ragamuffin" was designed to provide a "warts and all" look at Mullins' life. But Sherri and I came away from the film feeling that all we got to see were the "warts."
A thread running throughout the movie focused on the troubled relationship between Mullins and his father. If his father were truly as harsh and unloving as depicted in the film, it is easy to understand how Mullins struggled with other relationships, include that of his Heavenly Father.
The film implies that Mullins was conflicted his entire life and it was only at the end, before the accident, when he met author Brennan Manning (who wrote "The Ragamuffin Gospel") that Mullins had any peace in his life.
How was it then, if Mullins was truly as tortured as shown in the movie, that he could write so many moving songs with such incredible depth? How did Mullins manage to compose lyrics that could uplift the hearers in ways that other Christian songs could not?
A sense of balance is missing from this film. Surely, Mullins must have had many moments in his life when he experienced joy and satisfaction. I've seen film of some of his concerts and Mullins seemed happy, engaging and striving to connect with the audience, to point them to the one true source of happiness and contentment - a relationship with Jesus Christ.
My hope in watching "Ragamuffin" was to learn about and appreciate a person who often seemed, with his music, to sing about the feelings and emotions that filled my heart. Sadly, this film only created more questions than providing any answers.