“Grace enters our soul through our wounds.” — J. Pittman McGehee
Most people who have never experienced prison think of it as a dark place, and it can be. Most prisoners when they first arrive are placed in solitary for a few days – “until the paperwork is completed.” Solitary at best allows, at a maximum, one hour out of twenty-four where you might see some sunlight. A suicide watch cell has even less light for fear you might harm oneself by breaking the light fixture. Sometimes if a jail is overcrowded one might find oneself locked in a closet with no light for a few hours, days, or even weeks. But I think why people who haven’t had a prison experience think of it as a dark place is more about the souls that live inside the wall. They call on their own experience of when they felt like they lived in a valley of despair so deep that light could not reach them and assume the inmates must permanently live in such a valley.
Every human, even the most faithful, spends time in such a valley. Even if we have a strong faith we struggle with loss or failure. When we lose hope or wrestle with hope we feel exiled to a closet of complete darkness. It is during Lent that we practice and learn how to reflect the light of God into those deep valleys of our struggling brothers and sisters. God’s light appears through the tender care offered to our neighbor.
During Lent we remember to offer each other God’s strength in simple human kindness. We remember when our fellow human beings are experiencing darkness in the valley of despair to become a gigantic mirror reflecting God’s light into the valley.