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.


Some of the best things I read keep calling me back to them so that I can discover more than I saw the first time. Such is the case with Barbara Brown Taylor’s article in the Christian Century (April 2, 2014) entitled “Light without sight.” She shares thoughts about light in darkness that she gleaned in reading And There Was Light by Jacques Lusseyran.

When Lusseyran, a French resistance fighter who was captured by the Nazis  was shipped to Buchenwald, "he learned how hate worked against him, not only darkening his world but making it smaller as well.  When he let himself become consumed with anger he started running into things, slamming into walls and tripping over furniture.”

Hate blinds us even when we can’t see. It disorients us and keeps us from knowing where we are in relationship to other things in our world. Hate crimes are crimes committed because people are blind to the fullness of life in another. They are crimes committed because they can only see what threatens them about the other, not the full humanity of the other. 

But, when Lusseyran “called himself back to attention, . . . the space both inside and outside of him opened up so that he found his way and moved with ease again.The most valuable thing he learned was that no one could turn out the light inside him without his consent.”

When we hate another, when we allow our anger to shrink our world and we lose sight of the fullness of the other, the light goes out within. So, we have to remember that we have control over that inner light.  It will not go out if we allow love of another to overcome our hate.  If we pay attention to the fullness of life that exists in the other, then light will guide us in our relationship with them.


One who can't see with his eyes can certainly help those of us who have eyesight see more clearly.  In her artical "Light without sight" (Christian Century, April 2, 2014) Barbara Brown Taylor introduced us to a French resistance fighter who was imprisoned by the Nazis. Jacques Lusseyran, in his book, And there Was Light shared how he could see light when he went blind. According to Dr. Taylor, "one of his greatest discoveries was how the light he saw changed with his inner condition. When he was sad or afraid the light decreased at once. Sometimes it went out altogether, leaving him deeply and truly blind."

When it gets really dark in our lives, it is hard to see where we are going. Fear of loss narrows our world and swallows light. When we fill in the unknown future with anxiety that tomorrow will not work out well, we become afraid. It is hard to make decisions about moving forward because we have trouble figuring out what the consequences of decisions might be. If we are too anxious that they will be bad, we will narrow our world, moving forward tentatively and haltingly.

But Barbara Brown Taylor then said, "When he (Jacques) was joyful and attentive it [the light] returned as strong as ever. He learned very quickly that the best way to see the inner light and remain in its presence was to love." The Bible puts it this way, "Perfect love casts out fear." Love of life, love of others, paying attention to the joys and pains of others, reduces our fear. Paying attention to our own strength, our own courage, our own resiliency, can give us the energy to step forward into the unknown without as much fear to hold us back and drain our strength. 

Why does love help reduce fear. Because love is the connecting spirit that helps us know that we are not alone. Love is what binds us to each other so that when our hearts weaken, we know that others are there to share our journey with us. Love is that which overcomes our isolation and enables us to live in the strength of shared time and space.

So take it from one who can't see with his eyes. Love your way into the light. It is better than shrinking in fear.



He was afraid of the dark. He cried and so his parents put a night light in his room.  With the warm glow of a few watts, he was comforted and went to sleep. From early childhood, we believe that if there is light coming into us,we will be OK. We somehow think that our sense of well-being comes from outside ourselves.

But Barbara Brown Taylor, in a recent article in the Christian Century, tells of a man who helped her see a deeper truth. In his book, And There Was Light, Jacques Lusseyran, a blind French resistance fighter during WWII, wrote about going blind as a child. Only 10 days after he went blind, he made a discovery that influenced the rest of his life. "I had completely lost the sight of my eyes; I could not see the light of the world anymore. Yet the light was still there. . . . The source of light is not in the outer world. We believe that is is only because of a common delusion. The light dwells where life also dwells: within ourselves." (The Christian Century, April 2, 2014)

"The light dwells where life also dwells: within ourselves." I sometimes lament how much time I have spent in my life expecting light to come from the outside of myself. How much time I have wasted waiting for someone else to affirm my worth? How many insights I have missed because I looked for others to give me answers to  my life's issues? How much energy have I spent seeking clarity from the lights that flash unrelentingly from culture's values?

Light dwells where life exists. And life exists within each of us. Life, in its glory and pain, in its delight and hurt, in it tenderness and roughness, plays itself out within our hearts and souls. If we take time to pay attention to that life, to the heartbeat of our soul, the light that illumines us will not go out when it get's dark around us.