I do not have much experience with spiritual darkness. I’ve grown up in the church all of my life. The majority of my friends are Christian. I’ve spent my entire career working for Christian non-profits. I certainly am not a perfect Christian, but I am definitely well immersed in its culture.
It might sound strange, but Lent is one of my favorite seasons in the church. People in general are pretty averse to pain. We will go to great lengths to avoid suffering. Sometimes that’s why we go to church right? We see our lives and a world full of pain and suffering so we go to church to hear that God has our backs. Things will get better. The season of Lent pushes back against these human inclinations. It’s a season to lean into the pain and suffering. It’s a time of self-reflection, confession, and preparation. Lent is a season to confess that we are not enough and draw close to God.
This Lenten season I really wanted to challenge myself to lean into the hard. One of the ways I chose to do that is by fasting from coffee. I’ve given up chocolate before. I gave up sodas one year and never went back. But nothing seemed like something I would really struggle to do without. None of those things would make me remember how incomplete I am without God. Except coffee.
I have two small children at home, and the toddler has started climbing out of his bed and snuggling in next to me sometime between the hours of 1 and 4 AM. (Snuggling is also a very polite way of describing his violent fits of rage that sometimes occur while he is sound asleep next to me.) My morning cup of coffee makes me a functional person. It has taken a lot of prayer and grace to get me through these past [almost] 40 days. But I also know there is a light at the end of this darkened, Lenten season. I know that Easter morning is just around the corner.
There are millions around the world that do not. As much as I may have struggled without my daily injection of caffeine via coffee, many have it much, much harder. Women curse the gods for making their lives so hard as they walk the 6 miles home for the second time today carrying 40 pounds of their heads. Daughters just learning to walk practice carrying buckets on their heads, knowing that they will collect their future families’ water from the same polluted stream, continuing the same cycle of poverty and disease. They do not know that Easter is just around the corner. They do not know that God desperately loves them and wants much more for their lives. They will continue to live in this darkness – hopeless – until someone shows them their own light at the end of their tunnel. Giving clean water is a tangible way of shining God’s light into the darkness. It makes His love real. Easter is almost here. Could you shine light into the darkness?