A Broken Hallelujah

Today, the kids were out of school in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. A big part of me wished I had been more intentional in carrying on Dr. King’s work by serving our community, but it was a more of an introspective, quiet experience at our house.

My daughter spent time with a friend and did her customary long bathing ritual. My son did what he usually does when he has time on his hands. He bee-lined for his guitar. His agenda was set in stone when the urge hit him to learn Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

He began working out the accompaniment and asked me to sing along. Within minutes, we were swept away in the song’s haunting melody, weaving the sound of his guitar and my voice with an ease that surprised us both. Every time he messed up, he wanted to start at the beginning until it was right. Within a few minutes, he had nailed it.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.”

If you know anything about our story, you know that Asperger’s Syndrome has certainly resulted in some “agitations of the soul” for our son, and for our whole family. Music has been a healing balm in every way and helped us communicate in ways that words alone couldn’t touch. Today, these lines from “Hallelujah” really hit me…

…I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch,

And love is not a victory march,

It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah…

For our family, there have been victories – “flags on the marble arch” so to speak – but those small victories came out of a love that required sacrifices, more patience than we thought we had, brutal honesty and re-learning how to communicate. Everyone of us has messed up, shed tears, asked forgiveness and tried again. We have felt ill-prepared to love each other well at moments. And those moments certainly were no victory march. But regardless of our brokenness, we are still singing. And today, I finally heard the hallelujah.

When my husband got home, supper was hot and on the table but Jackson wanted him to hear the song before we ate. He couldn’t wait. We sang it for Scott and after the last note, we looked up to see his eyes all filled with tears.

The sight of his tears made Jackson the winner of a bet he had placed with me before Scott got home. He bet $5 that Daddy would cry when he heard the song. We don’t really gamble, and he knows he will never see that money. But that was his way of saying he knew the music we made together was special.

I hope Dr. King would have been pleased that we made beautiful music on his birthday. For us, it was most certainly a present from God.

P.S. The photo used above is one I took of his hands as he played.

18 thoughts on “A Broken Hallelujah

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  1. Beautifully put, Emily … sharing in the outpouring of the gifts God gives our children is quite the blessing. I took my three out to see Brandon Heath (for our music fix), then to a jumpy place (where my boys got their sensory fix) and then to a movie (for our laughter fix) … a good day to spend together doing things that fill us up.


  2. Scott is not the only one that shed tears, this really touched my heart. Now we need to have you two record it and post it on FB so we can hear it as well. Love to you all.


  3. I am blessed to know and love you, and your family.

    And I think ‘broken hallelujahs’ go straight to the heart of God– He knows how much they cost us, and He above all others understands sacrifice.


  4. I have missed reading your blogs!

    I love the picture, it’s as beautiful as the melody of Hallelujah. That’s actually one of my all time favorite melodies. It’s moves my soul in a way that few songs do! My personal favorite lyric of the song is “and even though it all went wrong, I stand before The Lord of song, with nothing on my tongue but hallelujah”. Gosh, I nearly have tears thinking about it now. I only wish this post had been accompanied by a recording of you two…
    Tell Jackson to keep it up, he has such incredible passion!
    And tell the rest of your family hello from our household. I hope we can cross paths sometime this year!


  5. Yep… I would owe Jackson $5.00 too (if he were a gambler). It is wonderful the way the Lord takes our small offerings of obedience and turn them around for our own encouragement. I will try to remember to sing Hallelujah as I spend two 10-hour days a week with a very special young man who has Autism and needs someone to “hang out” with him while he goes to work.


  6. I agree with Shannon. I want to hear Jackson – and you. I’m sure you know some people who can help you record this. Just for your friends . . . . . Even when you write about heartbreaking situations, I smile at your honesty, your fresh perspective ~ and your humor. Thank you, Emily.


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