Let It Be

Okay, I’m having a moment.  You’ll have to forgive me.

For a lot of my life, Let It Be by the Beatles was my favorite song.  Even after I gained enough awareness to label it a “Catholic” song (though I now go to a mostly Protestant church where Mother Mary is a big deal), and even after I was “sure” I knew what the song meant, I still teared up whenever I heard it, wherever I was.  As it turns out, my “understanding” of the song was nearly opposite from what I now – as of a week ago – think it really means.  First, I think the lyrics are worth repeating here:

When I find myself in times of trouble / Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom / let it be
And in my hour of darkness / She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom / let it be

Let it be (x 4), whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

And when the broken hearted people / Living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted / There is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be

Let it be (x 4), there will be an answer, let it be.

And when the night is cloudy / There is still a light that shines on me
Shine on until tomorrow, let it be
I wake up to the sound of music / Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be (x4) there will be an answer, let it be (x4) whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

I thought this song was advocating detachment, almost an inaction in the face of troubles, a sort of this-too-shall-pass philosophy.  I took it personally (because I take everything personally): I’m exactly not the type of person who comes by this sort of way of life easily at all.  On the StrengthsFinder test, two of my top five strengths are “deliberative” and “restorative.”  Basically, I overthink everything and I like to fix stuff (and passivity annoys me).  But that’s because things matter to me.  I can’t just “let it be” if I see a piece of litter.  I can’t just “let it be” when my husband and I fight.  I want to make a difference (“significance” was a third strength) and so I can’t just “let it be” when things aren’t right and because I’m disciplined (a fourth strength) and thorough (“intellection” is my fifth), I want to (and am often good at) creating systems of efficiency that account for managing all the details and possible pitfalls of  all that I can’t just “let be.”  My machinery, my personality, my brain, was, it seems, not meant to “let it be.”  I loved the song anyway, for the soothing music and for the haunting lines that capture some of my deepest longings: “there will be an answer” and “whisper words of wisdom.”  It is to God I turn to both of these things for daily.

A classmate last week, in attempt to answer another classmate’s difficulty with Mary-mother-of-godunderstanding Mary as more than “divine incubator” (I know, disgustingly objectifying phrase, right?), completely reoriented my brain towards this song, though we were not talking explicitly about it.  I had completely missed that “Let it be” are Mary’s words to the angel upon hearing the news that she will be the mother of God (Luke 1:38) until this classmate answered “what’s so great about Mary?” with “Her words ‘let it be.’  ‘Let it be to me according to your word.’…Mary is the Church.”  Whoa.

So, Mary’s “let it be” is the opposite of what I took the Beatles’ Song “Let it Be” to mean.  When it comes from Mary’s lips, she is giving way to God’s will, but it’s not a passive abdication of personality or responsibility.  She is calling something out – as in “let there BE light!” – as she yes to God.  She is speaking something that was not into what is: “Be!”   When we say “let it be” to God, we are not disinterested by-standers to our lives; we are inviting the Holy One, Crafter of Heaven and Earth, the One Who Let Be All Things That Have Being, to let it be with us according to God’s word.  When we say “let it be,” we are not saying “leave it be” but “do Your Thing in and through me.”

I’m not trying to christo-size the Beatles and I’m not trying to impose anything on the meaning of this song.  But, given all of the above, I am going to appropriate it using my new understanding from my classmate’s swift but illuminating comment: it is Mary speaking words of wisdom: “Let it be.”  It is here we have an answer in the storm: “let it be.”  It is her whispered words of wisdom, “let it be,” that shines the light on those in darkness.  When the broken-hearted people (so, everyone), parted and divided and shattered from each other, ourselves and our God agree (about the origin of their brokenness? about their distance from one another? about ‘letting it be’?), it finally fully will be according to the word and will of God in and for the cosmos.  The answer is always and ever, “Lord, let it be.”

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