The low heat rises from the radiator and into the palms of my hands flat against the grate. Rubbing the sleep from eyes, I return my glasses back on the bridge of my nose and take an extra minute to look out the window.
There’s magic in the early mornings; it took me a while to realize this. There’s something special in the quiet moments just before the sun rises. It doesn’t come from the feeling of productivity – getting up early only to begin crossing things off a to-do list. No, there’s no magic in sitting in front of a bright screen, answering emails before dawn. It doesn’t come from waking up first, before the rest of the household, before the energetic sounds of kitchen cupboards closing, showers running, yawns, coffee cups, and dishes.
The magic of rising early in the morning lies in the fact that the outside world has yet to start. The earth’s groanings, all the stress and uncertainty she carries on her back, is still pushed down below the horizon line along with the sun. It’s hidden behind the mountains, and for one sacred hour each day, I can pretend the earth is at peace with herself because for once there are no screaming headlines, breaking news, or minute-by-minute updates. I savor the gentleness of a morning that has yet to hold the stress and uncertainty of life and all that’s in it. That’ll all come later – soon – as it inevitably does, but for now, there’s peace and beauty and a little magic.
Out the window and beyond the streetlights, standing tall and proud in the twilight, are tiny flickering candles nestled in the foothills – hundreds of hot air balloons, a popular tourist attraction in this region of the country. Ethereal, they whisper their presence out into the sleepy dark, like little paper lanterns scattered down the mountains. The flames from their bellies blinking bright then soft, then bright again. It’s a morse code of good mornings.
I am soul-weary these days. Parched. Dry. Heavy. Maybe you feel it too?
In our house, we call these times “being in our cave”, when the world gets a little too much and we need to steal away under the refuge of a metaphoric cavern for a while.
I am weary from feeling out of control over so many things: election results, virus pandemics, greedy politicians who use people like pieces of a board game. My neck hurts from headline whiplash, shocked by and outraged over daily news stories only until the next breaking report comes along.
The earth groans and I hear the voices of a thousand, a million, who are uprooted and have no place to call home – and no home that wants to call them there. It’s a weariness that comes from the stories of loved ones who are also waving the banner of uncertainty and leading the way in the parade of unending waiting – stories not mine to tell.
“Where is the justice?” we ask into the void of the pre-morning darkness. “When does mercy come?” The earth and all that is in her yearns for an answer. This longing for things to be set right and for crooked paths to be made straight is inherent in all of us.
So what do we do when it is not yet time for those questions to pair up with answers? How do we get relief from the tiredness of our souls?
The faraway hot air balloons begin to take flight, one by one, slow motion into the air. The first one leaves, confident, like a baby bird flying the nest for the first time, then the next and the next. And soon the whole sky is a panorama of kaleidoscopic balloons, ebbing and flowing as the sun rises behind them.
What do we do when we are soul weary and the world is too much? We can take comfort in routine and rhythms, still opening to scripture each day, even when the tissue paper pages feel like bowling balls. Deep calls out to deep, and we can find rest for our souls in the depth of the Creator’s goodness.
We can take active steps to put limits on what we consume. Unfollow news sites, snooze the people who post too many political things, turn off the WiFi at night and leave it off for a little longer each morning. Protect your soul. Boundaries are good. It’s okay to be gentle with yourself; it’s too much for us to continually absorb all the world’s grief.
Is your soul weary like mine? You can get up just a minute or two earlier and stand in front of the window just a minute or two longer. Maybe you don’t have a balloon show out your backyard every morning, but maybe you do have a twinkling river. Look at how the moon shines itself on top of the still waters. See the looming pine trees cuddled together around your home? Watch how the early morning shadows wrap themselves around the branches. Study the street lights, the neighbor’s garden, the freshly fallen snow, the flitting songbirds. The magic of the earth reveals itself slowly if we stop and look for it.
To the soul-weary: Things will one day be set right. It’s been promised to us. But in the meantime, find little pockets of peace. Be gentle and brave and still and quiet. Look for the magic.