A Crack in Everything


Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how light gets in.

Religious writer, Anne Lamott uses those lines from Leonard Cohen’s Anthem, as a metaphor for how her life was changed by her relationship with God. Struggling with substance abuse, an unwanted pregnancy and her father’s terminal illness, Lamott describes the situation like this….

“I was cracking up. It was like a cartoon when something gets hit and one crack appears, which spider webs outward until the whole vase is cracked and hangs suspended for a moment before falling into a pile of powder on the floor.”

 In the book Traveling Mercies, Lamott talks about how God’s love, and the compassionate care of the people in her church, acted as a kind of light, seeping through the cracks, helping patch together the pieces of her broken, suspended existence before she could crumple into oblivion. 

 Many people have similar experiences. Their situations may not always be as desperate or dramatic as Ms. Lamott’s, but for one reason or another they feel like their lives are cracking apart. Who will help them glue the shattered bits together before they turn to “powder on the floor”?

I remember watching an accomplished craftswoman on the Hopi Indian reservation in Arizona make a clay pot. She used broken bits from her less than perfect creations to build a little oven in which to fire her latest work. The shattered pieces from her flawed products played a necessary role in the creation of something new.

  Ernest Hemingway said, “ the world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.”

In her book Expecting Adam, Martha Beck tells the true story of how she was advised to have an abortion, after amniocentesis revealed the male fetus she was carrying had Down’s Syndrome. Martha truly felt like she was “cracking up” as she tried to deal not only with this devastating news, but also her fast track career as a Harvard university professor, the demands of her two year old daughter, and her husband’s prolonged absence while he worked on a research project in Asia. At the most desperate times during this period, different people intervened almost miraculously to support Martha. Contrary to the medical advice she received Martha decided to keep her baby. Beck describes how the birth of her son Adam brought about amazing changes in their family. They developed new priorities, experienced a kind of spiritual reawakening and strengthened their relationships. A crack in what they thought was their perfect, well planned future, let the light in and was a catalyst for renewal.  

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “there is a crack in everything God has made and not least of all in each one of us. “ 

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how light gets in.

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Filed under Reflections, Religion

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