Rich Mullins, on Sweaters

Watched Rich Mullins’s final concert a number of years ago.

This part’s always stuck with me.

And, when coming up with more definite specificities for this story, I came back to it.


So here, if you will.


“And I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the west of Ireland and the North Atlantic, and it’s a very stormy, tumultuous sea… very wind-tossed and romantic… and, um, scary. Which… romance is about as scary as a thing there is, I guess.

“And the Irish have always, sort of traditionally been afraid of going out to sea–partly because of the North Atlantic and partly because they’ve traditionally been very bad at building boats.

“But the soil in the west of Ireland isn’t sufficient to sustain them, so they had to go out. So the men would go out, and their wives and mothers would wait for them to come back, and oftentimes, by the time their bodies washed back upon the shore, they would be so disfigured that they couldn’t tell one husband from another… Which is a problem I think a lot of Irish women have, even if their husbands are alive.

“So you know when people go to Ireland, they come back and have those really beautiful, big sweaters? Really big, bulky, and they’ve got all kinds of stitches and stuff in ’em? Well they started doing that because each of those different stitches, it’s different charms and prayers and stuff that they would weave into their husband’s sweaters. So if it ‘worked,’ their husbands would come back alive. And if it didn’t, because fish don’t eat wool, they could tell who was who, by what sweater was n ’em. (pause) I just think that’s a charming story, okay…”


Then there’s another thirty-some minutes of him and his band playing songs, talking, and a brief waxing-poetic of salvation…


“…And, when you wash up on that other shore, even though you’ve been disfigured beyond recognition, the angels are gonna see you there, and they’ll go, ‘What is THIS? We’re not even sure if it’s human…’

“But Jesus’ll say, ‘No, that’s human. I know that one.’

“And they’ll say, ‘Jesus, how do you know that one?’

“And he’ll say, ‘Well, you see that sweater he’s got on…..?'”


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