Last night at our weekly Mockingbird Hour we took at the life of music legend Johnny Cash. One of the things we read was Dan Haseltine’s (lead singer of Jars of Clay) foreword for The Man Comes Around: The Spiritual Journey of Johnny Cash. It was so good that I thought I’d share it with all of you.
Just to give some context, for those who are unfamiliar with Cash’s life and career a couple of his biggest hits were songs about prisoners, and two of his biggest selling albums were live recordings of him playing at Folsom Prison and San Quentin Prison.
Without further delay:
There is a language that exposed men use. And a posture that only men living behind brick and barbed wire exhibit in the exercise of chipping away at guilt and regret with the tool of time. They speak in expressions that mix together the shame of being caught with the strange freedom of being found out.
Cash carried himself with a similar stance that gave the prisoners he performed for at Folsom Prison, San Quentin, and others a sense that he understood their story. Even though he was not a prisoner in the judicial sense of the word, he was well acquainted with addictions that stripped away true freedom. And so he spoke with authority and credibility to those serving time for the mistakes they had made along the way.
Johnny Cash has always given voice to men who believe that God is real and life is hard, that sin is real but so is redemption. And when a man like this sings “Amazing Grace,” he sings it with the authority of one who needs every drop of blood spilled to gain the benefit of such a necessary pardon. And by ways only God can tell, he had reconciled with his weaknesses and lived a life of transparency that gave voice to both his struggles and his devotion to God.
A life lived without pretense and hiding seems foreign to most of us. We often mistake it for an abuse of grace. But to those who have felt the gut level need for grace and been embraced by mercy, it is an expression of relief. We do not need to hide anymore. We do not need to lie anymore. We need to live and can live with our weaknesses and rough edges exposed.