As a high school student, I set my alarm clock for 15 minutes prior to school starting–not 15 minutes prior to time to leave for school. I often slept in sweats or something similarly slouchy to save time getting dressed in the morning and took a bath before going to bed. I woke up (often to a shot of cold water in the face, lovingly administered by my mom, who tried every method imaginable to convert me to a morning person), roll out of bed into tennis shoes, and stumble into the bathroom to wash my face, brush my teeth, and pull my hair into a ponytail.
No breakfast, unless I grabbed something while walking out the door that could be eaten while driving to school. No makeup or concern over the way I looked–it was high school, and honestly, I didn’t care about folks at school enough to wake up earlier on their behalves. No prayer or time to read my Bible–I was doing well to put two thoughts or words together that early in the morning. I once tried to establish a jogging routine at 6 a.m. with my friend and neighbor Amanda (who was much more disciplined than I was). That lasted about a week until she grew tired of jogging to my house and banging on my bedroom window in vain in the frigid morning air.
Needless to say, I was NOT a morning person. I never had been, and as I grew up, it got worse. As a college student, I stayed up into the wee hours of the night, catching three or four hours of sleep before class, and then napped after class until lunch every day. It was not until I obtained my first “real” job after college, working as a behavior specialist at a treatment center for emotionally disturbed teenagers, that I established my own morning routine and began to see the benefits of waking up slowly.
Watching the patients I worked with motivated me to get myself into a merrier disposition before arriving at work. These kids had hard lives–about 75% of them had been physically or sexually abused. Most of them faced criminal charges. Many of them struggled with substance abuse issues. Almost all of them lacked role models or even encouragement from their families, and many of them were wards of the state. If I’ve ever met people who had legitimate excuses to be grumpy first thing in the morning, it was these teenagers.
Yet surprisingly, thanks to the therapeutic nature of the treatment facility, most of the patients managed to avoid cursing, acting violently, or grumbling in the morning. Since the staff woke the patients up and gave them plenty of time to rouse, shower, eat breakfast, and prep for the day, most of them evolved into decently mannered teenagers by the time they headed to school. Watching these teenagers–who had every reason to hate mornings but didn’t seem to–motivated me to improve my own attitude, wake up a little earlier, and arrive at work with a smile and a heart ready to serve them.
I’ve become more and more of a morning person as I’ve moved through life. I’ve grown to appreciate the silent beauty of a sunrise. I’ve learned to look for a special sign between me and God, expressed through nature and only occurring in the morning. I’ve watched the hand of God work its magic in my life as a result of early morning prayers for myself, my loved ones, and my enemies. I’ve retained Scripture and recalled it when I needed it throughout the day after reflecting on it early in the morning. I’ve accomplished chores and other tasks I might have otherwise procrastinated in completing. And yes, like most morning people, I’ve become a connoisseur of coffee and hot tea.
This morning as I read Psalm 37 in the silence of our small country home while my husband slept soundly in our warm bed, I was overwhelmed with the desire to pass on this hard-to-learn lesson about the value of morning time to our soon-to-be-born daughter. I can’t wait to recite the beautiful words of Light to her as I wake her up. I look forward to modeling ways to make the most of the morning for her. I long to make French toast and homemade muffins for her and her dad while the sun yawns and stretches itself out across the horizon outside the kitchen windows. I want to share the treasure I’ve found with her so she will live up to the meaning of her name, Margaret–daughter of light.
“Arise, shine, for your Light has come. And the glory of the Lord rises upon you.” –Isaiah 60:1