Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem” opens with these words:
The birds they sang
at the break of day
I heard them say.
Starting again is what so many of us want to do, or wish we could do, or try but fail to do. We long for daybreak on a new life and the dawning of another chance. Some of us think that the birds sing for someone else. The sunrise of a new beginning isn’t for us.
Maybe it feels too late or too hard. Too late, because we’ve sojourned in the shadows for a long time now. We lost track of the path and then lost track of ourselves. We stumbled into places we never meant to go and then couldn’t find our way out. We ran into trouble and couldn’t bring ourselves to swallow our pride and ask for help. We’ve spent so much time in the darkness than we can’t imagine how we could ever make our home in the light. Too late.
Maybe not too late, but too hard. Starting again would require some courage: courage to admit that, by ourselves, on our own, and with no one else to blame, we’ve made of our lives something we don’t respect or enjoy. Courage to be humble enough to admit that we don’t know everything we need to know and can’t do everything we need to do to claim the lives we were made to live. Courage to be vulnerable enough to open ourselves to healing and hope from beyond ourselves.
Some of us think that we can’t start again because it’s too late or too hard. Others of us fear that we can’t have another chance, because we have the mistaken and despairing idea that we have to deserve it before we can experience it—that we have to get our act together before there can be a second act. Why would anyone, especially God, take another chance on us when there’s so little evidence that we are worth the risk?
There’s a powerful refrain which runs through Cohen’s “Anthem”:
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
“Forget your perfect offering.” Surrender the illusion that you could ever be so pure and so good that you would deserve the grace of a new beginning. We don’t, and we won’t, have a perfect offering to give. We have our selves and only our selves, in all of our brokenness and beauty, our pain and joy, and our wounds and wonder. Forget your perfect offering, and offer, instead, your need and hope to God whose shining light comes to our fearful hearts through the very failures and flaws we feared would keep us in the darkness.