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There is a Crack in Everything

Dr. Doug Hardy 
Professor of Spiritual Formation
Director, Doctor of Ministry Programs

It was not only the stunning, lush beauty of the Poulanass Falls at Glendalough, County Wicklow, Ireland that caught my attention. The words of our guide, Michael Rodgers, still ring in my ears and in my heart: “Notice where the waters of this river emerge—out of a fault in the rock.” It was true. The water gushed from a place of brokenness. Fr. Michael continued: “That’s how God’s grace works in our lives, emerging and flowing from our faults and weaknesses.” Could this be true? Is it possible that the fractures in our lives become the very channels of God’s grace?

The apostle Paul seemed to think so. Jesus’ words to him “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” led him to make a remarkable claim: “Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NRSV). Although it may not be the banner we wave when we’re putting our best face on to convince the world that Christianity is worth paying attention to, this actually gets to the heart of the Gospel. From a place of weakness, strength emerges. From a place of brokenness, power emerges. From a place of death, life emerges.

Which is why we need a Lenten season every year. On Ash Wednesday and through the entire forty days of Lent we are called back to this Gospel lesson that seems so easy to forget in a world (and sometimes, a church) that advocates a different route to strength, power, and the good life. You’re familiar with the messages: “Operate out of your strengths,” “Don’t appear to be weak,” “Make it look good,” “Smile!” And that’s how we try to live most days. During Lent we are given permission to give up any semblance of spiritual achievement we may have absorbed from our success-oriented culture. Why? Because it will only take us so far. To get where we really need (and want) to go requires a return to the Lord which, by definition, requires a return to our fundamental creaturely condition with its brokenness, weakness, and woundedness.

Second century bishop of Lyons, Irenaeus, once wrote: “The glory of God is the human person fully alive.” To be fully alive is to “behold God” which is only possible if we allow God’s grace to flow unchecked through the cracks in our armor. In more poetic form, Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen says it well:

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

- “Anthem” (1992)

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