Photo by Lindsay Alessandrini

Photo by Lindsay Alessandrini

I have heard it said that “Growing old is not for the faint of heart.” And indeed, as the body ages there are issues, or as Leonard Cohen sings, “I hurt in the places where I used to play.”   And the mind—the mind—that too seems to slow down and not recall things as quickly—and when it does finally recall them, the conversation has moved three steps beyond.

But, as I think about life, “Parenting isn’t for the faint of heart” either. After all, the heart explodes in a panic as we are awakened by cries of terror from the nursery. The mind “awfulizes” as you sit in the mid-hours of the night, long after the curfew has past, and your son isn’t home from his date. And what about the ache that fills in around the hole that is left when your daughter drives away, heading for the college.

And while we are at it, I don’t think that “being a teenager is for the faint of heart.”  Remember those years?  Remember the confusion when the body, racing with hormones, chased the longing for love and the urge to connect with unrelenting energy? Remember when you wanted to be your cool, unique self almost as badly as you wanted to fit-in and belong?  And then when you were left out? Ouch!

And maybe being a child is “not for he faint of heart.” The 5 year old in Indianapolis or Honduras stands at the door of the school, kindergarten waiting for him, trying to steel himself by getting a glimpse of what is to come. The unknown reaches around the half-open door to signal a hint of hope for the unsteady heart.

Maybe all this simply points to the fact that to live almost anytime and any situation in life requires a strong heart. Courage (heart, or inner strength) is required as we face the changes, losses, discoveries, unknowns of life.And maybe we can gain some strength in knowing that what ever stages of life we are in, we are not alone. Others around us are also drawing from deep wells of courage to stand in the midst of their fears and challenges. Maybe it helps to know that to be human is to have the capacity to face the unknown future to find heart enough to love life in the midst of the troubles.


We spend a lifetime building them. We lay the foundation for them and carefully work to create stability and equilibrium. Our ego, our self-esteem, our relationships, all intangible but essential to our sense of safety and security. 

But, inevitably something happens. Self-doubt invades. We make a mistake and wonder what happened. We don’t live up to our own expectations and beat up on ourselves. We are betrayed or hurt and our relationships feel fragile. We lose our job and doubt our worth. 

And it is at times like this that we can sing with meaning the words of Leonard Cohan in his classic Anthem: “There is a crack in everything.” It doesn’t seem to matter how hard we try, that which we love seems to always give way to the aging, decaying, breaking reality of mortal life. Storms come, foundations crack, windows break, walls warp.

But, if we are able to hold on, sometimes hope comes, “There is a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in.” The cracks in the secured ego allow the of the outside in and more of who we are to be revealed. It can allow light to shine into the unexplored regions of our self-understanding or our relationships. We can know more fully who we are.

Sometimes the truth isn’t easy to see. The light reveals things that we would rather not know. Our confusion about who we are can frighten us and make us reluctant to step out and give ourselves to relationships in the future.

Or, we can relax and sing the other part of the song’s refrain, “Forget your perfect offering/There is a crack in everything/That’s how the light gets in.” None of us is whole. We are all cracked. Our offering to each other will never be perfect.  So, forget your perfect offering and give yourself, cracked and broken, filling with light.