There's no way you could have known, but I have been on a Johnny Cash kick as of late. His music has been a favorite of mine for the past few years. Maybe it's because I grew up listening to Nashville's 95.5 FM and country music was just part of growing up in Nashville. Or maybe it's the fact that my dad would pick up his guitar and play every now and then around the house. I know that part of it does have to do with the fact that he and I sing in the same vocal register (notwithstanding his gravelly tone) which makes it incredibly easy for me to sing along to his tunes.
I recently finished a book by Dave Urbanski called The Man Comes Around: The Spiritual Journey of Johnny Cash. It is a collection of stories that unearth the highly spiritual nature of Cash's life and how he earnestly strived after God's will for his life. Cash only became more devoted as the years passed and the vices of his early life took their toll on his earthly body.
I honestly had no clue how devoted Cash was to God. The media machine projects him as a rebel, a murderer, and a loner. And I know that Cash perpetuated this image for some part of his musical career, but the fact is that he came to a point in his life where he laid all the drugs and alcohol down and committed himself to God's purpose. Did he fall back into his addiction later on in his life? Yes, as we sometimes fall back into our sin - but it was his commitment to Christ in all things (despite his folly) that struck me.
Do I have the drugs to lay down like Cash did? No. Do I have the alcohol to lay down? No. Well, then what do I have to lay down? Do I have to lay down my pride? Yes, daily actually. And my pride is directly connected to my decision to own up to my mistakes.
When I mess up, it is often hard for me to own up to my mistakes so I can ask for forgiveness - You can ask my wife. I can be stubborn as a mule at times when it comes to taking ownership of my errors in order to have them forgiven. It is only in this humble place that I am able to start fresh and learn how I can handle that situation in the future.
I point these things out to encourage. I hope that this will help to remind us that we all are not required to be perfect, but rather we are made perfect in God's love.
Late in his life, Cash had some of his best recordings found in the American Recordings sessions with Rick Rubin. I have to be honest. I did not get to hear these sessions until after his passing in 2003. I missed out on all the hype and critical acclaim that came with the recordings. I learned from reading Urbanski's book that Cash said he wouldn't sing a song unless he felt the song was right for him. He took so many songs and then (with Rubin's help) converted them into spiritual songs which may or may not have been his intent - songs like "Hurt" by Trent Reznor which can be a depressing listen until you hear Cash's version. He converts a song of depression and drugs into a song of honest hope. That's a God-given gift. It's as if Cash put a spiritual layer over this song to convert it to something more powerful than it could have ever been in the secular realm.
Give the song a listen here.
Cash was a faced with death several times throughout his life. He was in a near-fatal car crash while on tour in the 50's and plagued his body with "uppers" and "downers" as well. He was stricken with double pneumonia twice and diagnosed with autonomic neuropathy. He had plenty of reasons to give up, quit, or end his own life. He had plenty of excuses.
I challenge you to drop your excuse for whatever it is that is holding you back from reaching your God-given potential. If there's one thing I have learned from The Man In Black it's to never give up.