Today the last recordings of Johnny Cash were released; it seems he had enough for two final records. The last is American VI: Ain't No Grave.
Fans of the 'Man in Black' will be wearing all black today to show their love and support on his birthday - or maybe just to take the color back from the Goths! ;)
It is fitting that his birthday occurs in the darkest season of the year - late February is a very melancholic time for us all. My mother had her birthday on Feb 17th, was born in East Arkansas and during the Great Depression, just as Cash was. That generation was incredibly poor and had a great deal of sympathy for the oppressed, witnessing first-hand the heartless racism of the Old South and the despair and poverty of sharecroppers who filled their homes with children and alcoholism.
I posted this before, but here is Johnny's reason for wearing black - also keep in mind that Johnny was a very wounded Christian, struggling with deep personal issues. Old gospel hymns were songs of hope for him just as they were for Elvis Presley, though I think Johnny had the deeper faith in the end.
If you go to the link I posted above at Lost Highway Records (here it is again), you will automatically hear songs from his last album - and hear his hope in "A Redeemer beckoning me..."
What this teaches me is that there IS a place in Christian faith to be sad, to be upset at this world and its evil - keep in mind that over 70% of the Psalms are of lament. God understands we suffer and offers comfort as we struggle.
But what we must do - as Johnny did - is USE the pain we feel. To reach others, to let them know you do understand and let that pain cause you to focus outward, not inward.
If you will do that - if you will let Christ use your personal pain - you too can leave a legacy. Not of bitterness that poisons the very air you breathe, but rather a gentleness that turns each wound into something sacred, suitable for the hands of Christ to touch, to transform, to use. That creates a legacy you can be proud of.
Happy Birthday, Johnny.
You gave us the Bad News and the Good News - and brought hope to the hopeless.
"Ain't no grave can hold my body down..."
Amen and Amen.