The Coming of the Dawn
I’m an early riser, up before dawn. I pray in my bedroom every morning. Since my chair faces west, I never see the sunrise directly. Still, my window allows me to watch the coming of the dawn every day for much of the year.
When I first look out my window in the morning, all I see is black—except for a few security lights on the school across the yard. But otherwise, all is dark. But as I sit in my chair and begin to pray, the scene outside my window begins to change—very, very gradually. Almost imperceptibly. The color begins to go from pitch black to black-with-a-tinge-of-dark-dark-blue. A few minutes later I begin to detect the outline of the huge tree right outside my window. I can see no branches at first. Just the general outline of the tree. But soon the dark blue color begins to overtake the black, and I can begin to see the branches of the tree.
This is about the same time I hear the chirping of a few birds. I marvel that they are awake, because it is still “dark.” If I look away for ten minutes or so and then glance back out my window, I can now see the branches of the tree clearly and I can even distinguish a few leaves. The color outside is no longer black, but a deep, pervasive blue.
Within minutes, I can see the tree and everything else outside my window. And I know that dawn has arrived. The sun might not be up yet, but day has come. Definitely. On a clear day, I see the first rays of the sun illuminating the buildings up on the hill in the distance.
I watch the coming of the dawn day after day and never tire of it. In fact, the other day I was thinking: Dawn is a lot like God. How?
First, the dawn is 100% reliable. It comes every day. In fact, the dawn has come every single
day of my life for over 72 years! What else in my life has been so reliable, so certain, so true? That’s one way the dawn is like God. They both come no matter what frame of mind I have or what circumstances I’m in. The dawn and God come unfailingly.
But precisely because the dawn comes every single day, I can easily take it for granted. I can say, “Ho hum… another dawn. No big deal.” But every dawn is a big deal. Because every day is a big deal. Because every day is a gift from God. Every day is a gift for me to breathe in… to move around in… to pray in… to work in… to learn and love in… and to find God alive in. Those words of G. K. Chesterton come to mind, the words he said at the end of a day: “Here dies another day during which I have had eyes, ears, hands, and the great world around me, and tomorrow begins another. Why am I allowed two?” Every dawn fills me with gratitude that I am allowed another day.
The dawn comes gradually. Not all at once. That too reminds me of God. Our God seems to prefer the gradual to the sudden, the slow to the rushed. Our God seems to be in no hurry. If
it takes 4.6 billion years to create the earth, so be it. If it takes a lifetime for me to really, really trust God, that’s okay too. Like the dawn, God is often unobtrusive too. Most dawns come with little fanfare. That’s often how God shows up in our lives. No flashing lights. No clashing of cymbals. No fancy pyrotechnics. Just the deep sense that Someone is walking with us.
I don’t know what your experience of dawn has been. Perhaps you’d like to share a few thoughts about dawn or respond to some of the thoughts here. Or, if you’re not an early riser, maybe you’ve experienced some sunsets you’d like to tell us about. I welcome your responses.
Here’s a song called “Come Awaken Love” by Hunter Thompson. Sometimes we “sleep walk” through life. This song asks God to awaken love in our heart. Just as the dawn takes back the light, may we allow God to take back our heart through love.
What are some of your thoughts today? I invite you to share below.
PS: I will be giving a weekend retreat at Benet House Retreat Center in Rock Island, IL from September 15-17. The retreat is entitled “Celebrating Four Gifts of Autumn: Beauty, Harvest, Letting Go, and Hope.” Visit their website or call Sister Bobbi at 309-283-2109 for more information. I’d love to see you there!
Good Morning Sr. Melannie!
I am an early riser and enjoy watching God unfold the day. When I walk my dog Ernie, I often can see the first light of day especially in the winter. Thanks for the reminder that each day is a gift to be cherished.
Today is the first day of school for me and my students. It is the dawn of a new semester.
Good morning, Sr. Melannie,
Like you, I, too, am an early riser — even in my retirement! And also like you, my prayers are said before or as the sun rises. I find the morning to be a holy time of day, the time of day I pray best (I am useless in the afternoon, and will think of a thousand excuses to delay my prayer). Your description of the darkness becoming light is beautiful. I do not know how you pray, but I do know this: you take the time to pay attention to the glory of God’s doing.
Dear Sister Melanie: I also face west in my room. Often I take the time to sit on the front porch which faces direct south but east & west are visible as well. The bird feeder is full of birds before dawn & our neighbors have a rooster who does a wonderful job of announcing the day as it arrives. I cherish this time with the Lord each day. He strengthens me for whatever tasks lie ahead, but most of all I just love the quiet time with HIM. It makes me feel safe & there is a peace in that quiet time that does not occur any other time of day. I try to make my life a prayer but fail often with the busy-ness of living. I truly enjoyed this post. If we only take the time, the Lord gives us so many gifts we would often miss if not purposefully looking, the dawn being the first of our day. Blessings! M.
Here I am at Biddeford Pool, ME. for my annual retreat.
I so looked forward to rising early.. before dawn.. to sit at the pond and to be present and and watch dawn arrive and all creation to wake up! What a gift!!! It is really a precious contemplative time with God.
Now, I am waiting for the right time / wind to fly my kite!!!
Peace and All Good!
I agree, Melannie. This dawn miracle every day can become “Ho Hum”. With the Solar Eclipse today I think we’ll be having an extra dawn! Every day the sun rises and the moon appears in the sky and we hardly notice. But today the whole country will notice because the moon stands in the way of the sun. It seems we often only appreciate something when it’s changed or gone. I hope I will never take our Good God for granted.
Perhaps today’s solar eclipse is a nudge from God to encourage us to notice, and appreciate and wonder in, sunsets and sunrises, even in the middle of our busy days.
Chesterton also said “What if the sun rises every morning because God like a delighted child says ‘Do it again, Do it again.'”
I identified with your thoughts on dawn. When we moved into our new convent, I chose a room facing east so I could experience the beauty of sunrises. No two are ever alike…..I am amazed at the gift I receive each day from the Divine Artist. Even on hazy or cloudy days, there is such beauty in the formations in the sky! Thanks again for sharing your insights and my prayers are with you as you lead the retreat in September.
Peace and blessings. Josita
Dear Sister Melanie:
Loved today’s reflection. I love the mornings, really can see those small changes in daylight reflected in the trees, flowers and landscape.
A good time to Thank God for this beautiful day, and they are all beautiful in their own way.
Now we must transfer that to the people around us and those that maybe we don’t agree with, and work to heal our people and our country.
Dear God please guide and protect us. Amen.
THank you Sister. Esther.
I walk my dog Peppermint before dawn and I watch the sky change and the birds starting their day. After the walk, we sit on the deck and pray and watch the birds at my feeders. This time with God starts my day off right.
U r at a great view for the eclipse! Enjoy Gods creation Madeleine
I think it’s not an accident that you post this blog on solar eclipse day! I was just thinking that the moon is something like 1/3 the size of our earth, and I’ve read that you can fit a million earths in the sun. So this tiny moon, when aligned properly, can completely blot our view of the gigantic sun. Combined with your reflection, this prompted me to wonder: how many small, petty, insignificant things do I let cloud my vision of God?
Thanks for your reflection.
I like to pray in the dark too. My time is late at night when everyone else is asleep. There is something about the darkness that removes all the clutter of what is seen in daylight. It clears and makes room for God in the stillness.
Lots of us up at dawn or before. I am also 72 and have been doing this for many, many years as I get the coffee, sit in my chair and pray for myself, friends, family and the world, and then take my dog for her walk. Being outside to hear the dawn chorus is one of my most joyful events thru the day. I pray I can do this for years and years.
The gradual arrival of the day’s awakening eases me into the beauty I am blessed to enjoy another day. It reminds me that I must relish in the gift of opportunity to do God’s will. When I pray I ask God to reveal His daily plan for me…..and just as the dawn unfolds so does what I need to do each day. I believe God created a slow rising and setting of the sun to inspire us to reflect at the beginning & end of each day; what a lovely reminder from God that He wants to engage with us every day.
First of all, thanks for the morning stroll down memory lane: sunrise in Chardon, Ohio, with the first rays of the rising sun dancing off the Eltech Building.
Someone has written that the darkest part of night comes right before the dawn, which is the best reason to welcome our dark times, because they hold the promise of a new day.
I have all of your books and read some of them many times. The one that has given me the most comfort in difficult times is “With the Dawn Rejoicing.” Your books have awakened my appreciation of the wonders of our universe.
Love and prayers, Helen