by Jake Hall

published in Family Matters, March 2014

Lent is a dark season, too dark for some. This time of preparation for Easter is meant to remind us of the world’s brokenness so that we might rejoice at the world’s redemption. During Lent, we intentionally allow the shadows to fall upon our lives. We take note of the darkness of this world and the darkness within us and we long for the Easter morning light. It is a time of honest confession and contrition. If the weight of Lent is a bit much for you, then maybe it is time for you to reframe the season, so that you might experience it in a new way.

What if the seven weeks of Lent were, for you, less like a walk through the dark ages of your life, and more like time in a darkroom, a place where the image of Christ might be carefully developed within you.

For those born during the digital age, this may require some explanation. If you pull out your phone and take a picture, you will notice that the time that passes between the click of the lens and sight of the image is nothing. Click. Boom. Picture. Before the advent of digital photography, film had to be processed and developed in darkrooms. In order for the picture to develop, the photographer had to manage space and light in just the right way to move an image from film to paper. Red lights often marked that the darkroom was in use, in order to protect the fragile prints from overexposure from outside light. Two seconds too long in the light and the image was done. This developing space was fragile and needed protection from outside influence.
As we enter the Lenten season, we work to create space for the image of God to be developed in our midst. We turn off the lights. During the next few weeks, we operate with the red light on. We will carefully guard our time and space as a worshiping community. We need to sit and soak in the darkness in order to appreciate the light. It is tempting to rush past Lent, but doing so would cause us to miss an image of God that we would not otherwise see. It takes time for us to get acquainted with our need for grace. We need to be developed.

A new friend and amateur photographer reminded me that, “in old darkrooms there was not only a developing solution but also a “fixer,” the last bath that fixed the image on the print. Allow this season of darkness and light to develop grace and affix the image of Christ to your life once more.