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Come Out of the Darkroom

August 9, 2021

Everything that is exposed to the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.  That is why it is said: ‘Wake up sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’” Ephesians 5: 13-14[1]

My father was a gifted photographer.  He joined the Navy when the United States entered the war after Pearl Harbor in December 1941.  He had worked as a part-time photographer before the war, but was given further photography training by the Navy.  He worked for the Pentagon during World War II in photographic reconnaissance.  He became a commercial photographer after the war.  His black and white photographs were works of art.  My brothers and I all spent time with him in his various darkrooms, watching him transform undeveloped film into images. After film is developed, the image can be seen on the film and printed onto photographic paper.  But the images on the film must be born in darkness before they can come to light. 

That is often the case in our lives.  We often stumble in the dark before being led to the light.  When we are in a completely dark room, we cannot see what is in the room.  It is only when light is brought into the room that we become aware of our surroundings.   In the same way, God leads us to wisdom through his illuminating Word and by his revelation in the dark places of our lives.  Wisdom is often born in the darkness of suffering.

Father Robert Spitzer, whose physical world is perpetually dark because he is blind, calls suffering “the high point of wisdom.”[2]  In Sunday’s Old Testament lesson, Solomon begins Chapter 9 of the book of Proverbs with this statement: “Wisdom has built her house: she has set up its seven pillars” (Proverbs 9:1).  What are the seven pillars?  The seven pillars represent a complete and perfect wisdom.  The number seven in the Bible represents completeness and perfection.  Father Spitzer writes that we can be brought from suffering to completeness and perfection within the context of faith because God’s love is unconditional and his goal is to bring us to eternal life. We are brought to faith through God’s grace—Jesus’ death on the cross and the gift of the Holy Spirit.[3]

In teaching us that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10), Solomon is not referring to the type of terror that grips us when disaster is about to befall.  We do not shrink or cower from the Lord in dread.  The fear Solomon is referring to is from the Hebrew word yirat, meaning a reverence or awe of the Lord (Yahweh).  Reverence or an awe of God is the beginning of wisdom.  It is that awe and confidence in his unconditional love that lifts us up before God to make us fearless in the face of life’s challenges. Before he died, Joshua told the people to “Fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness (Joshua 24: 14).  Solomon’s father, David, wrote: “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34: 4).  He goes on to tell us that while we all suffer during our lives, “The Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34: 17-18).

We don’t automatically step from the darkness of depression, despair, grief, addiction, and other dark places to a place of light and peace.   And even when we do emerge from a dark place, we know that we can slip back. As long as we have breath in our bodies, there will be setbacks. There will be struggles, and yet God gives us hope. 

God is our only hope as we struggle through valleys of darkness. When we are in awe of God, we begin to walk toward the light.  God begins to illuminate a path out of the darkness through his Word, circumstances, medical professionals, and others along the way to help move us out of our own personal dark places. 

Paul encourages us to live as “children of light”: “You were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of light (for the fruit of light consists of goodness, righteousness, and truth).  Find out what pleases the Lord.  Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5: 8-12).   

When we walk with Christ, his light will shine on us and through us to others: “Everything that is exposed to the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.  That is why it is said: ‘Wake up sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5: 13-14).  When you walk in the light you become a beacon of light to lead others out of darkness.

We walk toward Jesus because we know that he wants only the best for us, he will see us through this life, and has prepared a place for us in heaven with him.  We are on earth but a few short years compared to our forever life with God after we leave this “vale of tears.” Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6: 68-69).  

To whom indeed.  Where shall we go? There is only one answer to that question: come out of the darkroom and into the light.  When you do, you will see the image of God stamped on your soul. 

Prayer: “Lord, hear our voices raised in prayer. Let the light of the coming of your Son free us from the darkness of sin.  We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.” (For All the Saints: A Prayer Book For and By the Church, Vol. 1, p. 66).

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost are Proverbs 9: 1-10 or Joshua 24: 14-18; Psalm 34: 12-22; Ephesians 5: 6-21; John 6: 51-69. Another version of this blog was published on this website in August 2018.

[2] Robert Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D., The Light Shines On in the Darkness: Transforming Suffering Through Faith (2017) Ignatius Press, p. 23,

[3] Id, p. 24-25.

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