Sometimes a song speaks with new relevance and its message comes to life. That’s what happened with this song today as it popped up in my playlist. The words resonate during the present national pandemic
If you’re on your own in this life The days and nights are long When you think you’ve had too much of this life To hang on…
Everybody hurts sometimes; Everybody cries…
I have become aware of many people who have been totally on their own, going for days without seeing another person. Each person has their own particular story with their own aspects of pain; one person’s mountain may be another person’s molehill. What may seem small to one may cause great anguish to someone else. But I am mindful of what my nurse friend often says, “The pain is what the patient says it is”. Pain is pain…
I’m also aware that to tell someone in pain that “everybody hurts” is not the most sensitive response. It doesn’t acknowledge their own particular pain that they are experiencing and actually seems to belittle it.
This led me to think about the age-old question often posed in times of great pain or searching…”Where is God when it hurts?” or sometimes phrased as “If God is a God of love why is there suffering in the world?” Huge questions to ponder, to research, to meditate on, not run away from or be simplistic about.
And so I reflect…. God is close to the broken hearted… Psalm 34:18
For a fairly introspective 17 year old the music of Leonard Cohen (1934-2016) drew me with a fascination bordering on obsession; I can still remember sitting alone in my bedroom listening to ‘Bird on a Wire’ on repeat. The phase soon passed, and I only recently came to appreciate the depths of this song ‘Anthem’, from Cohen’s 1992 album ‘The Future’.
‘The Future’ contains references to traumatic historical events, including Hiroshima and the Second World War. The massacre of students in Tiananmen Square and the fall of the Berlin wall both happened in 1989; it was a time of massive upheaval and uncertainty in the world.
Listening again in late 2019 you have to ask, has much has changed? Just thinking about our own country (quite apart from the rest of the world!) Britain is facing a bewildering parliamentary election, Brexit is unresolved, the country has more Foodbanks than McDonalds….. there surely still is ‘a crack, a crack, in everything’, but Cohen leaves us with a note of hope, ‘that’s how the light gets in’. We need the light, in our national and our personal lives, as never before.
Currently it is Advent, traditionally the time for preparing for the coming of Christ. For me this song provides a kind of transcendence, bringing hope into the apparent hopelessness of our world. The parallels are obvious I hope.
I love this song because it is so cheerful – it gets your feet tapping and your body moving (or is that just me?). It’s a song I play sometimes and it works on several levels. On the surface it is just a good time dance song – although if you listen to the lyrics there is a story of a broken romance and someone who is ‘moving on’, determined to forget the previous partner and have a good time.
Then as I sing there is a layer of my own longing for love and an embrace in a dance of life. Somehow I feel it for myself, but I am also singing it on behalf of everyone else who needs that too, so you could say it’s a kind of prayer.
There’s a whole theology around the idea of dance. Some Christians are down on it as being too ‘carnal’ – but that’s exactly what it is – being physical, being in the moment, being with another person, it’s all good.
People dance when they are happy and there is a famous occasion in the Bible where people are dancing in celebration. The Israelites have been saved by a miraculous crossing of the Red Sea and now it’s time to party! Read about it here in Exodus 14:19-21. And let’s hear it for Miriam – in those patriarchal times, a woman, a prophet, a musician, singer and a leader. Go Miriam!