The Common Good

The Purpose of Lent's Season of Darkness

100302-mountainsThis morning as I was sitting reading my Bible, I caught a glimpse of the Olympic mountains out my window. They were covered in the early morning light which reflected off their snow-covered peaks. It only lasted for a few minutes, but I drank in the breathtaking beauty of those minutes in silent prayer to God.

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Morning moments like this do not occur often in Seattle where rain and clouds are the expected norm at this time of the year. But how those clouds and the darkness of the days before makes us appreciate the light. And how much more beautiful the light is because it was preceded by darkness -- not just the darkness of the night that has passed but the darkness of those rainy days as well.

It is easy for us to hate the darkness; in fact, we live in a society that does not know how to cope with darkness. The sun fades and we switch on the lights, or we head for our winter vacations in Hawaii or the southern hemisphere.

Even in the garden at this season I try to encourage the coming of light. I have already planted 90 tomato plants on heat mats on my front porch and am now struggling to fit them all under my grow lights. And I am itching to scrape away the soil from the ones that have not germinated yet hoping to catch an early glimpse of that first green shoot that tells me the seed is about to burst into life. However I know that would be fatal.

Darkness has its purpose, and if we try to hurry the sun-drenched days of summer, it may be counterproductive. Seeds that have been started inside are often spindly and weak. They need to be gradually brought out into the sunlight -- otherwise their leaves will burn in the intensity of real sunlight.

Those bright flashes of sunlight this morning reminded me that during this season of Lent we enter into the darkness that is within us so that the light of Christ can shine through. If we try to hurry through this season of introspection and searching into the darkness of our souls, that too can be counterproductive. In this second week of Lent, Easter and the coming of new life still seems so far away that I felt this was a good reminder for me. The season of darkness is a season for listening -- listening to the inner promptings of our souls and listening to the still small voice of God that longs to be heard and attended to.

As we wait, we catch glimpses of God's light just as I caught those glimpses of God's light on the mountains this morning. And as we wait in the darkness, God works within us so that the light of Christ can shine out in our lives in all its brilliance, not just for a few moments, but for all time. And when it does so, it will not just overcome the darkness that is within us -- it will overcome the darkness that permeates every aspect of our world.

portrait-christine-sineChristine Sine is executive director of Mustard Seed Associates and author of several books including GodSpace: Time for Peace in the Rhythms of Life. She describes herself as a contemplative activist encouraging a way of life that interweaves spiritual practices with concern for justice and environmentalism. She blogs at GodSpace.

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