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Cold and broken

April 5, 2012

Sometimes I have to think about something a good long while before I decide what it is I actually think.  Lack of information, internal conflict, ambivalence, and apathy can all slow my processes to near gridlock.  As can my tendency to over-think things at times.

I’m sure you’re really surprised about that last one.

Or not.

Earlier this week I ran across a video that was so hauntingly beautiful that it gave me chills.  I’ve heard a lot of breathtaking renditions of this song, but I think this is one of my favorites:

I loved the song the first time I ever heard it.  That was years ago.  But I have to admit, there is a line in the song that I found disturbing, and I just couldn’t shake it.

How can a hallelujah be cold and broken?  It just sounded so…wrong.  So cynical and faithless.

The word hallelujah means “praise the Lord”.  I had always associated that phrase with joyful exclamation.  I also associated it with agreement, false humility, and a lack of knowing what else to say but still wanting to sound reasonably pious.  It was a religious phrase that was rather loaded, to be honest, and I was very weary of loaded religious phrases.

In the end I had to ask God to help me understand and to show me if a cold and broken hallelujah was an idea I should accept or reject.  And He did.  He’s really good at that revelation thing.

God loves praises of all kinds.  But I also believe that some are more precious than others, simply because they are more costly.  I can think of nothing more costly than a cold and broken hallelujah.  It is not the shout of the jubilant celebrant.  Neither is it a show of religious fervor.  It is the anguished cry of submission of a shattered soul.  It is sacrfice in the midst of gut-wrenching pain.  It’s laying it all down in the garden and saying “ok…do it Your way”.

Sometimes our cold and broken hallelujahs are a result of our own screw-ups.  It’s devastating to come face-to-face with one’s own broken humanity, realizing that your own choices have created a mess that ripples out and touches everyone and everything around you.  Other times our cold and broken hallelujahs come from living in a world that is cold and broken.   Death, betrayal, suffering of all kinds…we can either fight them, or we can offer the hallelujah that has no guarantee of peace on the front end.

I’ve known my share of both kinds.  Both shake you to the core and make you wonder if life will ever be ok again.  And sometime it isn’t.  Sometimes that cold and broken hallelujah comes out of the realization that something irrevocable just changed and that you have no choice but to find a new normal, and it takes you out behind the knees and leaves you gasping for air on the floor.  And that broken heart, that humbled spirit that has nothing left to offer but a hoarsely whispered “hallelujah” in the middle of the mess and blood and tears and the snotty nose,  is like a magnet for God.  He runs to be near.  Even if we caused our own problems, He is there instantly.  In that moment we are so incredibly beautiful to Him…and He rescues us with no regard for whether or not we deserve it.  We’re His kids.  He loves us so passionately it’s nigh scandalous.

It’s no wonder that song is achingly beautiful.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. April 5, 2012 10:31 pm

    Reblogged this on Whatcha Thinkin'? and commented:
    Just had to pass this on for anyone who may find themselves in this place now or in the future. Beautiful thoughts from a beautiful friend!

  2. April 5, 2012 11:46 pm

    Wow, Lisa! Thank you for that very deeply felt post. I love that song as well but I never could completely understand the awe of the sadness. But I think you nailed it here! There are different kinds of ‘hallelujahs’ and I have felt them all. Some are harder to explain. The most accurate description of a ‘cold and broken’ hallelujah I’ve ever heard. I have grappled with how to describe it even (in words)…..but I couldn’t find words that matched what I felt when I experienced it. I love how you described it….”Sometimes that cold and broken hallelujah comes out of the realization that something irrevocable just changed and that you have no choice but to find a new normal, and it takes you out behind the knees and leaves you gasping for air on the floor”……..and……”It is sacrfice in the midst of gut-wrenching pain. It’s laying it all down in the garden and saying “ok…do it Your way”………………

    I must share this because it so incredibly spoke to me in light of what I have been processing. I may have to make a few return trips back to read it again….and listen again.

    • April 6, 2012 9:19 am

      Candy, I have to tell you I thought of you as I was reading this post. I’ve been thinking of you all day even before this post. I see in you a person who praises Him and clings to Him and never gives up hoping and trusting in Him. It is refreshing and inspiring. So many people choose a different path in the cold and broken season. I love that you still call Him Papa!!

      • April 10, 2012 9:47 am

        Thank you, Laurie. I have to say that this is the 4th time that I have been back to not only listen to the song, but to read what Lisa wrote. It really went deep into me as I bore witness to it’s truth in my own life.

        I shared this on Facebook, and also just today tried to re-post it on my blog. I think I did the credits ok…..but wasn’t sure how to properly re-post….if there is a way to do it correctly, and I didn’t achieve that….I hope you, Lisa or Vicky will teach me how to do it RIGHT. :-)

  3. April 6, 2012 9:07 am

    Wow….AMEN, AMEN, AMEN!! Think I might have to share too!

  4. Mr. Sparky permalink
    April 7, 2012 11:45 am

    Wow. What a feast for mind and ears. I’m so proud of My Sparky :)

  5. April 18, 2012 12:17 pm

    Thanks. Beautiful. Captivating. Powerful. I can’t help but think that a broken praise maybe the highest praise.

    • April 18, 2012 1:06 pm

      I, 100% agree with 2b14u’s comment, when she says, “I can’t help but think that a broken praise may be the highest praise.” The ‘cold and broken’ praise (based on personal experience), comes from the same place that Lisa described so well, “It is sacrfice in the midst of gut-wrenching pain. It’s laying it all down in the garden and saying “ok…do it Your way”………………”, but my lips will never cease to praise YOU!

  6. Joe permalink
    May 25, 2012 10:23 am

    i think Leonard Cohen has never been a believer in truisms and so he never would simply say halleluiah. He bisects the obvious and is a master at showing us the meaning of parallax view. A cold and broken halleluiah makes more sense to me then a perfect halleluiah which probably belongs to the realm of angles.

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