Posted September 12, 2009
Johnny Cash and Nickajack
Located close to the Tennessee/Alabama state line, Nickajack cave was home to Native American Indians, a source for saltpeter (the main ingredient of gunpowder), a high school field trip adventure for my mother, and a cool place - in more ways than one - my parents took me as a child. Then the Tennessee Valley Authority partially flooded the cave while building a new dam and access was fenced off.
However, the best story I ever heard about Nickajack was when the country music artist Johnny Cash visited while it was still accessible. Tired of life and strung out on drugs, he decided he would end it all by getting lost in the cave and committing suicide. It would be his burying place. It was in the maw of Nickajack, Johnny had a spiritual epiphany. Wanting to "just die" he felt God's presence in his heart. Seeing a faint light and feeling a slight breeze, he found his way back out again. To him, it was his own rebirth.
A friend of Billy Graham, the two produced a film about the life of Jesus in the mid 1970s, The Gospel Road, which Cash co-wrote and narrated.
Later, during double bypass surgery, Johnny claimed to have a "near death experience." His visions of heaven were so beautiful, he was angry when he woke up alive. He'd never forgotten about his brother Jack's work accident, his body almost cut in two by a saw. Jack also claimed to see heaven and angels before dying.
Johnny's religious conviction deepened.
He wrote over a thousand songs and released dozens of albums. He was a man who hit rock bottom but allowed God to resurrect his life and career.
"By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong." Acts 3:16