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Lent: Remembering darkness to find the light

Lent is known to many people as a season when Christians “give something up.” We fast from a favorite food, promise to give up gossip, or limit our time on screens. But it’s more.

Lent is a time to reflect on our mortality–to remember that we are dust and to dust we shall return. It’s a time to turn our attention to the darkness of our sin, to reflect on our need for a savior. In some ways, Lent is a time when we are invited to take a stroll in the dark.

For me, that’s pretty easy these days. The division in the world, the church, our politics, all point to darkness. And sometimes the darkness draws our attention and becomes all we see.

The night sky

In the final moments of the last episode of season one of True Detective, an HBO series Diane and I are watching ten years after it originally aired, detectives Russ Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) are outside the hospital where (spoiler alert) they have been recovering after near-death experiences.

Looking up at the stars, Marty begins what feels like a simple attempt to comfort and reconnect with his estranged partner and friend.

Marty: Didn’t you tell me one time at dinner once, maybe about you used to make up stories about the stars. 

Russ Cohle: Yeah. I was in Alaska under the night skies

Marty: You used to lay there and look up at the stars…  and make up stories. Like what? 

Russ: I’ll tell you Marty, I’ve been up in that room looking out those windows every night here just thinking it’s just one story. The oldest. 

Marty: What’s that?

Russ: Light versus dark.

Kneeling beside his friend, Marty looks again toward the night sky and comments, “Appears to me that the dark has a lot more territory.” After what they’ve been through, it must feel that way also.

The conversation shifts, but a few moments later, Russ returns to the stars, unprompted.

Russ: You know, you’re looking at it wrong. The sky thing. 

Marty: How is that?

Russ: Well once there was only dark. If you ask me, the light’s winning.

A new perspective

For me, this is what Lent is about. It’s a time for looking into the darkness and seeing the light. It’s a time to remember that life is finite, difficult, and often unjust. But there is light.

There’s that verse in John–one we tend to read at Christmas more than Lent, “The light shines in the darkness, / and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light” (John 1:5 CEB).

This Lent, I want to spend some time looking up into the night sky, acknowledge that while the dark seems to have a lot more territory, it cannot extinguish the light.

“But if you ask me, the light’s winning.”

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