United Church of Christ

Healing Our Brokenness

This will be my last Advent posting. I have been looking at various lyrics from Advent Hymns. What I'm about to share is about as good an Advent lyric as there is – but you won't find it in any Hymnal. 

Its from one of my favorite Leonard Cohen songs: Anthem.  

The line reads: "there is a crack in everything – its how the light gets in."

I am a broken human being. I know that about myself. I have known sorrow and grief. I experience doubt. I make bad decisions with good intent. I can be impatient. I can be unkind. I manifest my privilege even when I work hard to confine it.  

I have lived through great pain and aguish. I have spent time in hospital rooms with a wife and daughter that I wasn't sure they would walk out of. I have held the hand of my dying father. I have walked tough roads with victims of abuse – and experienced some of that myself. 

I am aware of atrocities that demand and require attention, because which I believe my calling in life matters. I have walked with and amid human suffering that weakens my knees but not my resolve. 

I believe that Leonard captures all of that in that simple, haunting, poignant first half of his lyric: there is a crack in everything. 

We are all broken. 

I relate to the brokenness differently, though. I see it as a burden. I spend life energy trying to fix the broken – in me, in others, in the world. I interpret brokenness as a challenge to be fixed, a puzzle to solve, an enemy to be defeated. 

Leonard's second line shifts something important for me. It is a lyric of hope, of resolve, of acceptance the likes of which I struggle to find. He writes: "That's how the light gets in."

The first time I heard this, I was in my basement shooting pool. Like many of Cohen's songs, the melody drew me in – but the lyrics blew me away. This lyric stopped me in my tracks. I stood there for a long time, long after the song ended – impacted to my bones by the beauty of a line that delivered the kind of deep wisdom that shifts the way you walk in the world. 

I still struggle with my brokenness – but now I have a perspective that calls me to new insight and understanding. "There is a crack in everything – that's how the light gets in."

In this liminal season of Advent, we focus on the brokenness of our world and call ourselves to heal it and ourselves in it. We prepare for the Christ child – what we often call the coming of the light. It is our brokenness that not only makes the coming of this child necessary, it is our brokenness that prepares us to receive the blessings of one who embraced the fullness of our humanity. 

I prepare myself to receive the love of God in Jesus. In doing so, I fear not my broken, wounded, vulnerable self. I embrace it, knowing that the love and light of God can come to me not in spite of it, but because of it. 

Be kind to yourself, gentle traveler. The vagaries and circumstances of life will at times conspire to break you – sometimes wide open. Know that the sacred Creator of life seeks to heal you. Know that on our journey there are cracks that appear into which the light breaks forth. Receive the light and love that comes – and prepare yourself for the awe, the wonder, and the splendor of a life that is revealed as we walk our way Into the Mystic. 

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