Wednesday, March 12, 2014

You're not done yet: A lesson from the life of Johnny Cash.

A lot of my friends know that I'm a fan of Johnny Cash.

He lived a truly remarkable life, a pioneer in both Country and Rock genres, he is the icon in American social culture if there ever was one. He stood for the common man, writing and recording music that spoke to their values, beliefs, struggles and triumphs. He spoke what he believed in even if it wasn't what others wanted to hear.

This isn't to say his life is a road map for success either. He literally tried as hard as he could to ruin it. Somehow he still persevered despite himself.

One of moving moving and yet, strange tales of Johnny Cash's life was when at one of his lowest points of extreme drug usage and depression (after being awake and strung out for days) he decided to attempt suicide.
But in typical Johnny Cash fashion, he didn't do it the way others do it.

There is a cave roughly an hour's drive from his home in Tennessee called "Nickajack Cave" that delves very deep underground and it isn't too long before you see nothing but blackness and hear nothing at all.

Johnny Cash decided that if he crawled deep enough enough into the cave, that he would not be able to find his way out and he would just die there in the darkness. No one would ever find his body.
Stew on that scenario for a moment.

The story goes that he crawled for about 2-3 hours and when he felt like he couldn't crawl any further, he collapsed where he was and laid down to die in complete darkness & silence. Swallowed up in guilt and sorrow for his life.

This is what he said about what happened next:

"I didn’t believe it at first. I felt something very powerful, a sensation of utter peace, clarity and sobriety. I couldn’t understand it. How, after being awake for so long and driving my body so hard and taking so many pills—dozens of them, scores, even hundreds—could I possibly feel all right? The feeling persisted though, and then my mind started focusing on God. There in Nickajack Cave I became conscious of a very clear, simple idea: I was not in charge of my destiny. I was not in charge of my own death. I was going to die at God’s time, not mine."

The rest of the story is, as you can imagine, pretty incredible. He begins the journey of crawling back out without a bit of directional sense. He catches a slight breeze on his back at one point and then followed the wind for hours until he found his way back out.

To add to the craziness, when he got the entrance of the cave, June Carter and Cash's mom where there, with nothing other than a feeling guiding them to the entrance of the cave. His mom had driven from Arkansas simply because she felt like she needed to see her son. At that time, he sought further help for his addictions and saw real change occur of the course of the next decade as his career resurged, he and June married, and so on.

The reality is that Johnny Cash struggled with addiction until the day he died. He was very open about that in both autobiographies that I've read. But this moment in time represents a powerful lesson about having purpose in our lives.
It also makes me think about how as a part of a community, our life is not necessarily our own in some ways.
I have obligations and promises to keep to the people around me and in Johnny Cash's case, he felt God's presence pulling him up and saying "I'm not finished with you yet." (I'm not trying to quote God, just saying).

You still have work here to do.

I strongly believe that without purpose, we will wilt away. I know that for me, my purpose is clear and that's made all the difference in my life as husband, father, business owner, friend, mentor, student, etc.

Hopefully you've found something meaningful to take away from this blog post.

But if not, enjoy this frickin awesome song that Johnny Cash recorded in the last years of his life.



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