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  • Heather Burke-Cody

Broken Hallelujahs

He sat two rows in front of us at church. To the far left. And near the end of the aisle, so I could see him in plain view.


I should have been focused on worship myself, except I couldn’t keep my eyes off of him.


Maybe it was the way he swayed with the music. Heart and hands abandoned—away from his body and to the soul-beat. Or maybe it was the way he kept looking up into the ceiling. Almost like he could see some kind of Holy in the black painted tiles. I looked up as well—thinking maybe I could catch a glimpse of Holy too.


And I tried not to stare when all the tears fell. Straight down his face. Jet-fast and heart-hard, like they were being pushed out by an unseen force so that hope and healing could be pulled in.


We all waited in make-shift lines when it was time for communion. The common cup is uncommon for those who don’t know much about a table set for redemption. It must have been his first taste of the “body” and cup of the “blood.” Because he ate and drank like a boy starved to death—while the Gospel filled him up.


If we borrow the eyes of Jesus and look at a person hard enough, we can see through flesh and bones and into a person’s soul. Something told me this man had a story—a broken hallelujah under the cheekbone scar and left-sided limp.


Church ended and he joined a group of men. The one with the tattooed arm whispered low, but loud enough for others to hear: “$hit man! I could feel Jesus!” But the scarred-up-limper who looked for Holy in the sky could only bow his head and dry his eyes. “Me too, man. Me too.” Maybe others heard the cuss words but Jesus only heard those broken hallelujahs.


One never knows about another person’s story. Thick heart-scars hide under all our thin skin-scars, don’t they? And these stories all look different—whether we sit in our pearls or sit in our pain. Same skin. Just different scars.


And Jesus meets us where we are.


They congregated outside of a van that would take them all “home.” Smoke billowed from their vape pipes and cigarettes—making a lingering cloud of nicotine and need. We walked right through the haze of it all. And I breathed it in deep-- just to remember the smell of hope rising and healing happening.


And this man--who sat two rows in front and over to the far left--will likely never know that when he caught a glimpse of Holy in the ceiling tile painted black, I caught a glimpse of Holy in him.


And in all the broken hallelujahs.




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