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  • Writer's pictureHeather Simmons

The Holy or the Broken Hallelujah

Happy New Year friends. I'm a day late in posting this, but that seems to be par for the course lately.

If you've hung around this blog for a minute, you know that I celebrate New Year's Day on October 1st of each year. Check out these posts here and here to get the deets on why I celebrate 3 months early. Once you're caught up with the five other people who read this on the reg, you may proceed below.

Typically I try to get to the beach at the end of September to be alone, sit in prayer, and talk to the Lord about the "word" He's given me for the year. There's something about sitting beside the ocean that makes you feel unbelievably small and unimportant that drives home the idea of how much He cares about YOU even though He has a whole earth and cosmos to run. This year, however, I wasn't able to get to the sea. I saved all my monies and my paid vacation to go see my new boyfriend Theodore who was born in late August. He is an absolute gem and totally worth a missed trip to the ocean. He has my whole heart and for a while I was sure my word was THEO. :)

I hunkered down in Atlanta on September 30th and waited for the word. I've been prayerful about it all month, but didn't get a clear image until the last possible moment. All of my ruminations and pondering for the last 30 days have floated over how tough a year it's been, how nomadic I've felt, how DIFFICULT life is. In fact if you string together all of my posts over the past year you've probably had an inner monologue dedicated to asking me if I've sought help. This year around the sun has not been fun. I've wanted a do-over. I've wanted to pout and complain and burn it all to the ground. I told the Lord the other day that if my word was DIFFICULTY or SANCTIFICATION or REFINEMENT I would literally walk out of my house and never come back. Peace out, people. The past five years have been hard, and I don't think I want to adult anymore.

But on New Year's Eve, the script flipped. Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" came to mind. The specific lines "There's a blaze of light in every word/ It doesn't matter which you heard/ The holy or the broken hallelujah" kept playing on repeat in my mind (and now yours too. You're welcome.). And that's when I knew it was my word: HALLELUJAH.

Hallelujah: exclamation:: Praise Ye the Lord (uttered in worship or as an expression of rejoicing).

We are not about to get into a discourse on the meaning of Cohen's Hallelujah. The only thing I will mention is that it's a beautiful, poignant, and somber song that makes me bawl like a infant every time I hear it. I will also point out that Cohen was of Jewish descent and used biblical imagery to create a modern and unorthodox take on familiar subject matter.

Here's where his song plays into my everything: growing up in the church, I only saw people throwing the term "Hallelujah" around when something great happened. Someone got healed; someone experienced answered prayer; something occurred in which many many exclamation points would be used if you were to write about it. Hallelujah was flamboyant! exciting! wonderful!! AWESOME! It was used to rejoice. In the New Testament, it's often used to describe the joy of the resurrection - "He is RISEN! Alleluia!"

Easter lilies all around this word my friends.

But Cohen's song is anything but joyful. You see, Jews know a thing or two about disappointment, abandonment, the wilderness, etc. They didn't want to adult like all of the time (I point you to Moses repeatedly battling their murmuring and grumbling and building of idols). They knew, experienced, and understood that life could be hard. Cohen's song is not happy. It has the bittersweet romance of a funeral dirge, not the upbeat tambourine-beating movement of revival Sunday. And that's when I knew it was time for me to embrace this word.

I am not currently in Revival. My tambourine got lost during my fifth move in four years and I haven't had the energy to replace it. I don't feel the joy joy joy joy down in my heart. My hallelujah is broken. I have no strength to rejoice loudly with great spirit. And yet I will praise Him. Whether it comes out as a faint whisper or a bold and hearty exclamation, I will still give Him praise.

I sat in my bed and cried my eyes out and felt like I'd just been let in on some big secret. You see the New Testament is also filled with a ton of "and yets". People facing persecution and yet they praise the Lord. People being beaten and shipwrecked and bitten by snakes and yet they worship Him. It doesn't matter if right now I feel more like an Israelite than a "blessed" individual in the 21st century. It doesn't matter if you hear my holy or my broken hallelujah. The point is that you hear it.

Strike that. The point is that HE hears it. So every day for the next year I will wake up and say Hallelujah to my King. I will make decisions based on whether or not they shine with external praise. I will examine my thoughts and see if they are praiseworthy. And I will be thankful that I have breath in my body and can offer my hallelujah, small and quiet. Broken or not.

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