What is your morning routine? When you arise in the morning and find your way out of your bed, what is the first thing you give yourself to? Do you immediately turn on the television in order to learn about the events of the world? Do you sit with the Newspaper? Do you begin to tackle that waiting to-do list, or worse yet, all the things left incomplete from yesterday’s list? Do you start the day by immediately stewing about all the stresses that await you? Sometimes the way we wake up in the morning sets the stage for the entire day.
My wife, who has a profound gift of noticing things I do not, said to me a while ago “Did you know that the first thing you do in the morning is go look at your phone?’ She was, of course, entirely correct. Before breakfast or coffee, before even greeting wife and son, I would go instantly to my phone, searching for all the waiting notifications. Depending on the morning, I would then sit there, face in the screen, for a good 10 minutes. Of course, it is easy for me to justify this action. The cell phone is my work phone! I simply must check my emails! And, because I have parishioners who contact me via any number of means, it is also important to log into Facebook and Twitter. It is nothing more than a demand of ministry. After all, there may have been a dire altar-guild emergency that occurred in early hours of the morning; or worse yet, some crisis may have erupted wherein a poor soul has been waiting for several hours for a needed pastoral response. Their faith may hang in the balance!
…It could happen.
Of course, none of these things ever occur. Still, I act as if they might. But if the first things of the morning sets the stage for how I go about my day, what does the decision to jump into emails and Facebook posts say about where my day will be focused? What does it say about where my heart is directed, if my devotional life is pushed behind my emails? Is there a better way to enter the day?
Several Sundays ago we heard the declaration from the prophet Isaiah: ‘Morning by morning he awakens me. He wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.” There is an interesting shift in understanding here. Instead of seeing the act of rising in the morning as something that I do in my own effort (i.e., I wake up), I am called to see my own rising as a response to an act of grace and love (i.e. God awakens me). It is the Lord who awakens us. Our rising in the morning is part of the beckoning of Jesus. Thus, we are called into a day defined by his loving presence. This new day that we awaken into is a day wherein we are blessed to journey in the presence of God, being led by the Spirit. Instead of waking up to the needs of everything that awaits me, we rise to a day of devotion, of worship, of prayer.
This necessarily changes how I see the day before me. Instead of a call to frenetic activity, there is the constant call to watch, to listen, to pray, to be silent. If God awakens me in the morning, and opens my ears like one being taught, then it must be the case that God is speaking into my life and thus I must live out this day as one attentive to that still small voice of God.
Personally, I find I cannot do that if I immediately jump into email responses and Facebook connections. Thus, I have tried a new tactic. I have begun to actively leave my glasses in my home office when I retire for the evening. I place the glasses upon my Bible. Thus, when I wake up, get dressed, and go to retrieve my glasses, I recognize the call to begin the day in devotion. For a small length of time, before I proceed with the other things of the day, I sit and read scripture. I pray. I sit in waiting silence.
I don’t want you, however, to think I am perfect at this. Last week my wife said to me “Did you know that after your devotions, the first thing you do is to go look at your phone?’ I still have some growing to do. But I have noticed that my day feels unsettled if I begin without this time of prayer, meditation, and listening. I miss that quiet time. The purpose of God awakening us in the morning is so we may, once again, live out the day in divine fellowship. We rise in the morning immersed in God’s loving presence. When I frenetically rush into the busyness of the day I find I am more prone to miss the blessings of God in my life. When I skip my devotions I tend to live my day in my own strength and power; yet this often leaves me feeling a little more frenzied, confused, and turned around, then when I start in prayer and devotion. Starting in quiet devotion reminds me of the life I am called to live in the presence of Christ.
Morning by morning we are awakened to a new day; Morning by morning God surrounds us; Morning by morning new mercies we see; Morning by morning the leading of the Spirit can be encountered. Morning by morning the voice of Christ can be heard. In a world which is so often filled with noise and activity—often of a negative ilk—there is no greater habit in the Christian life that the discipline than divine attentiveness. We must open ourselves to God’s presence. We must keep franticness at bay, even just for a little while, so we can listen for the leading of the Spirit. Morning by morning we arise in devotion, worship, and self-offering. Because the great thing is, we can trust that God will show up in our lives.; His presence can be felt and His voice can be heard, morning by morning.
What is your morning routine? What devotions do you engage in?