Broken Hallelujah

Leonard Cohen wrote one of the most covered songs of modern history, Hallelujah. I imagine if you hear the song start, you will instantly recognize it, it seems to resonate inside you. You will be drawn into the melody and lyrics,

“Now I’ve heard there is a secret chord that pleased the Lord… It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, the major lift… Hallelujah”

After this point, the lyrics become nonsense and incorrect as a biblical account. But then comes the last phrase of verse three – “the broken Hallelujah.” Again, the melody is one that, for some inexplicable reason, resonates inside me. 

The word Hallelujah comes from Hebrew and means’ Praise the Lord’. Therefore, maybe it should be one of the melodies encapsulated in every breath of a follower of Jesus the Christ. But some days, the best we can muster is a broken hallelujah, a whisper from a broken place. 

So, where is this coming from, and where does it go? My dad lives with us; he has Alzheimer’s. Some days are good, others not so much. Saturday, was one of the awful days. It started well; we went off to breakfast, and dad was torn between Waffle House and Denny’s. But when your memory restarts every 10 minutes, often we drift from where to eat into what are we doing. Denny’s won out. After a rather normal breakfast, dad announced the need to go to the restroom. So off we go, at the best possible speed. Public restrooms for those needing handicapped facilities are a gamble. In this instance, we were in good shape. I went to latch the door while dad got on to the business at hand. There comes the train wreck. The details, too horrible to even think about, meant the immediate need for a pressure washer, hazmat suits, and a shovel. Dad had no idea how the situation was becoming a crisis and seemed to be working at making this an EPA-funded cleanup. 

Then came the crash, or maybe a flood might be more descriptive. I completely melted down right on the floor of Denny’s restroom. I am ashamed to say that such verbal violence to the fifth Commandment was committed; it broke both of us. Nothing I said honored my dad. The words and thoughts flew like daggers towards my dad. I really had never experienced such an explosion of words spoken in anger. The words hurt my dad; he was bewildered, almost like a little child making it all the worse. I would have felt better if he had thrashed me with his cane. The words blew past the indwelling of Christ within me. It took a bit but, we got cleaned up and cleaned up the site. Dad asks, “why are you crying?” He had already moved onto the next memory loop. The realization that I couldn’t even apologize was the breaking point for my Hallelujah. When we got home, got us all washed, and showered, I was left depressed and dwelling on my thoughts. I had said things and had horrible thoughts toward my dad that were beyond fixing with a simple “I’m sorry.” How can I, as a believer, do such wickedness? I found myself deeply troubled sitting in my closet, feeling empty and worthless. 

As I began to seek some clarity, I grabbed my Bible and was drawn to Psalm 51- “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin…” Through the tears, reading through the Psalm. I came to verse 10- “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” I have realized that while yes, I am a great sinner, I have an even greater savior, Jesus the Christ. There will be times that try me, but I am never more sure, stridently more confident in “whose” I am than ever before. God spared my dad the remembrance of this great wickedness. God restored in me a wellspring of joy. God removed the brokenness of my Hallelujah and reminded me how His love never fails. I am His, as is my dad. Hallelujah!

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