Author: Kaitlin Scirri
The winter months can be tough. They often seem to drag on endlessly, especially in the northeast. The days grow darker, the weather grows colder, and the sun seems to hibernate. The cold, darkness, and lack of sunshine affect us, even though we may not realize it until we are several months into winter.
As the holidays wrapped up and we plowed our way into January, I experienced the familiar let down that comes with facing months of continued winter but with no parties, Christmas decorations, or visits to see family and friends. A couple weeks into January, I experienced something else: utter fatigue. I was tired all the time. It didn’t matter how much I slept or how many vitamins I took. I was exhausted. I reached out to my doctor and after ruling out anything physically wrong, she made an interesting diagnosis: lack of sunlight.
For those of us in Buffalo, January was an unusually gray month. We expect to see less sunlight in the winter, but the lack of sunny days that month was surprising, even for a Buffalo winter. I recall seeing reports about the lack of sunshine on the news. My doctor suggested I try daily bright light therapy, or a “happy light.” She gave me specifications around what kind of light to purchase and how often to use it. To my surprise, it helped! Apparently my brain and body were being affected by the lack of light in my life.
As I was preparing to enter this Lenten season, I was reminded of my experience with the dark days of winter and the bright light therapy. It’s not only our physical selves that are affected by a lack of light in our lives. Our spiritual selves are affected as well. And we don’t always notice it at first. In the winter, the days don’t suddenly turn dark on us. It happens gradually over several weeks. Just like we don’t begin walking in spiritual darkness overnight. It tends to happen slowly.
Maybe we choose to sin and then brush it off as no big deal. But that sin leads to another sin and then another. Or maybe it wasn’t a sin, but a distraction. With the cold temperatures driving us inside and the lack of social gatherings after the holiday rush, maybe we find ourselves turning more and more to screen time. We try to fill our quiet spaces and avoid a sense of loneliness, spending more and more time on social media, binge watching Netflix, or mindlessly scrolling through the internet. Pretty soon, we start to feel spiritually tired, because we aren’t allowing light in to energize us and help us grow in our faith.
Oftentimes we think of Lent in a negative way. We think of it as something we have to do because we don’t like denying ourselves our desires. Fasting and giving up things are uncomfortable. But what if this Lent we flip things around? What if we think of Lent as something we get to do? We get these next few weeks set aside for us just to grow closer to the Lord and become stronger in our faith. We get to evaluate our lives and we get to eliminate things that may be leading us into sin or distracting us from our faith. We get to practice fasting and self-denial so that we may become more like Christ. We get to intentionally step away from the darkness and let the light in. If Lent isn’t or hasn’t been your thing in the past, try thinking of it in a new way this year. Some ways to let spiritual light into your life this Lent include attending daily Mass, reading the Bible, spending time in Adoration, praying the Stations of the Cross, and celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation. I pray that this year, Lent would be our spiritual “happy light,” reviving our spirits and energizing us to dive deeper into our faith and grow closer to Jesus.