This post is inspired by the song “God’s Gonna Cut You Down,” recorded in 2003 by Johnny Cash and released posthumously in 2006 on “American V: A Hundred Highways.”
So, I died. Kind of unexpectedly. And when I got to the pearly gates, it wasn’t St. Peter waiting for me. It was Johnny Cash.
He was dressed in black, like in all the pictures, holding his guitar and singing, “Go tell that long-tongue liar / Go and tell that midnight rider / Tell the rambler, the gambler, the backbiter / Tell ‘em that God’s gonna cut ‘em down.”
I walked right up to him, then stopped.
He asked, “Which one were you, darlin’?”
I said, “Well, I did lie. An awful lot.”
“What’d you lie about?”
“Pretty much everything. And I said a lot of awful things when I was angry, but those things weren’t the truth. Those were the lies. I was just mad. I just—before I got here I wanted to somehow stop hurting everyone.”
Johnny set down his guitar. “Well, hon, didn’t you realize those people you hurt, they were gonna be here, too, someday?”
“I did, Johnny. But I figured I’d have some time to, you know, straighten it all out with them. Then, by the time they finally got here, I’d be all happy to see them,” I looked down. “But, you know, it didn’t quite go that way.”
He shook his head and sang another line from the song, acapella: “What’s done in the dark will be brought to the light.”
I looked up. It was too light. I mean, really. Who needed this kind of illumination?
“I’ve been down on bended knee / talkin’ to the man from Galilee,” Johnny Cash caught my eye when I tried to avoid his. “You know him?”
I nodded, but right then and there, it didn’t feel like I knew him at all.
“He spoke to me in the voice so sweet / I thought I heard the shuffle of the angel’s feet,” Johnny sang, then spoke. “You ever heard that voice?”
“Once,” I said. “It wasn’t exactly good news, though.”
“The good news already came,” he said, picking back up his guitar and quietly strumming. “You can run on for a long time / run on for a long time.”
I didn’t say anything, because who’s gonna interrupt Johnny Cash in the middle of a song? But I knew I’d stopped running. I also knew I probably couldn’t go any farther — certainly not through those gates. But I’d be happy to just sit there. Sure. I could spend eternity listening to the Man in Black sing. Yeah. I could sit in while he visited with all of humanity, one at a time.
He was still singing, “Well, goodness, gracious. Let me tell you the news.”
The next words to the song popped into my head, and before I could stop myself, I sang along: “My head’s been wet with the midnight dew.”
He stopped playing. “Go on in, darlin’. They’re waitin’ for you.”
Here’s the video. It’s one of the most powerful things I’ve ever seen.