Morning of Expectations

Many of us like typologies or stereotypes, as we often call them.  For example, some of us claim to be introverts and others clearly are extroverts.  I belong to the former introvert category.  Of course, most of us have a touch of both within ourselves.  But one tends to be the dominant type.  Being an introvert means that most of us need some time by ourselves to recharge our batteries.  I know that I need some regular time alone.  I like being with people, but at some point I look for some solitude.  Extroverts are different.  Being with people charges their batteries.

Another, less scientific typology is the morning vs. night person.  Again, I feel very clear that I am naturally a morning person.  Maybe that is due, in part, to growing up on a farm---a dairy farm no less.  But I have always favored the morning hours.  Even when I don’t have to get up early, it is difficult for me to stay in bed.  Once I wake up, I am ready to hit the floor and get going.  Of course, the other end of that spectrum is my preference for bed much sooner than any night person would contemplate.  I know; I have lived in a house filled with night people.

One of the favorite parts of the day for me is the early morning hour when I can be by myself.  I am happy to be up at an early hour and just as happy to be by myself.  I could be social at this hour, but it is nice not to have to be.  Being a morning person leads me to think about it in spiritual terms.  At first, my mind goes to the Liturgy of the Hours, as monks label it.  This simply means the prayer schedule with which monks structure their day.

The Abbey of Gethsemani, where Thomas Merton lived and about whom I have much to say, begins their day at 3:15 in the morning!  Appropriately, they call this particular gathering Vigil, which means, “keeping watch.”  Intentionally, they precede the day---they go before the emerging daylight of a new day.  When I am at Gethsemani, I participate in all the Liturgy of the Hours.  There is something strange about getting up and “going to church” at 3:15am!  But I realize it is only strange if it is not part of your routine.

I like this because it puts a premium on the morning.  Effectively, there are no night persons at a monastery like this.  They simply could not function very long on so little sleep.  What must be true is some night people have been called to this way of life and have had to adapt.  For me it was close to my preference and would only require slight adjustment to get up a little earlier than I usually do.  I could do it.

I admit that I don’t normally get up and immediately go to church.  Rather I get up and go for that first cup of coffee and daily newspaper.  Instead of beginning with spirituality, I start with sports!  On second thought, however, I realize it is not quite as crass as I make it sound.  Instead of making coffee and having a paper delivered to my front door, each morning I walk to a local store and buy a cup of coffee and the paper.

This tends to be a meditative walk for me.  I don’t drive.  If it is raining or snowing, I dress appropriately and head out for the trek.  I like being outside in the weather.  It is what it is.  Being on the outside is to be in God’s world.  It is not artificially heated or cooled.  I love the stars when they are out.  A walk when there is a full moon is splendidly spiritual.  I have a chance to be quiet and to be thankful.  The only one around is God, so God gets thanked!

To awaken into the morning is to be gifted with a new day.  For me this means a day with some hope.  And just as importantly, it is a day with expectations.  I try to frame my expectations in a spiritual way.  Of course, there are routine expectations, such as having breakfast, etc.  But I also create spiritual expectations.  Let me enumerate a few.

I expect to be involved in some meaningful and purposeful activities.  I don’t want to waste my time; that would be a waste of a divine gift.  It is not necessary to be successful if my life is meaningful and purposeful.  So many signs of success are fleeting or superficial.  Too often, they are nothing more than ego-boosters.  But meaning and purpose typically are more transcendent.  They go beyond my ego.

I expect to be involved with some interesting people.  Some days I know much of my interaction will be with people I already know---friends, students, etc.  But I expect each new day and each new interaction can be special.  I don’t want to take people for granted.  I want to be open.  I want to be willing to be surprised by someone’s growth in a way I had not seen coming.  I also want to be open to serendipity.  Maybe I will meet someone new.  I don’t want to plan everything!

Expectations are not the same thing as a guarantee.  Expectations are a form of hope.  I might be fairly confident I know that what I expect to be true will be true.  But an expectation is always a future event.  Expectations are like the morning.  You have it, but you are not sure what will happen.  You have to live into it.

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