When the Sun Rises

Grad school has brought many a good thing into my life, but it has been a fairly significant change, the most significant parts of which have been living several hundred miles away from the people that I have spent most of my life loving most dearly and not having the time and/or money to visit them as often as I would like. I had the joy of visiting some of my friends from undergrad while at the campus ministry that I was a part of and was reminded that spending time with them and planning and attending ministry events was once, basically, my world (alongside school and lab work, of course). And now my world is something very different, but also very wonderful, and it can’t help but encompass my love for that undergrad/homeland world.

In any case, visiting that previous world and the people in it that I love so very much requires either a plane trip (taking lots of money) or a long drive (taking lots of time). Driving that far creates a few options. You can A) Leave in the afternoon or evening and arrive in the very early morning, which isn’t for me, B) Leave in the late morning and arrive in the late evening, which I sometimes do, or C) Leave in the very early morning and arrive in the afternoon, which I gave its first try for my spring break trip home.

I was so beyond excited that I managed to get myself to sleep around 9:30 p.m. and wake up, alert and excited, at 4 a.m. This is an unprecedented time for cheerful alertness for me, even taking camp into consideration! If I left really early, though, I would be able to surprise my sister when she got out of school, visit my mom at work, and visit the campus ministry that I still love so dearly, and I would be in one of my favorite places in the world all the sooner!

The reason that such early rising is so unusual for me is because my daily routine is fairly strongly connected to sunlight, which I think is a very natural thing. I enjoy waking up to sunshine and other things and people that are awake. I wound up eating dinner at 9 p.m. a few times right after Daylight Savings because I just didn’t realize how late it was until the sun finally went away. I love the daylight. It is probably because of this that, an hour and a half into my drive, I started yelling, out loud, “IS THE SUN EVER GOING TO RISE?!”

Was this a little melodramatic? Perhaps. But some small part of me felt legitimately concerned about the fact that I had already been on my journey for what seemed like a long time and the sun hadn’t bothered to show up. Sure, there were artificial lights here and there, and maybe a few lingering stars, and I knew I wasn’t completely in the Twilight Zone since there were some other drivers on the road, but it was getting a little discouraging. And a larger part of me knew that at some point, the sun was going to show up. Fact: The sun rises each day.

Sure enough, some time a little after 7:00 a.m., the sun peeked over the horizon, with light beginning to spread everywhere a little before it even did so, and I obviously was moved to song:

The sands of time are sinking

The dawn of heaven breaks

The summer morn I’ve sighed for

The fair, sweet morn awakes

Dark, dark, had been the midnight

But dayspring is at hand

And then it all comes together-

And glory, glory dwelleth in Emmanuel’s land!

It makes a lot of sense why the Bible is constantly using night and day as metaphors. Night, and life in this terribly broken world, can seem to extend on forever. The sun hadn’t disappeared forever- it still existed, and I just couldn’t see it but for its reflection in the moon. Fact: God is still there and still working, and in the right amount of time, He is returning. The trial of this delay is that we have to live with knowledge of this fact. If I had just assumed the sun was never going to rise and the stores were never going to open, I would have had to make do with breakfast from a convenience store instead of waiting more patiently for the delicious one I bought when different establishments opened with the sunrise. I might have overindulged in caffeine as a day of driving in darkness might make one rather sleepy. Bu I lived and drove differently, because I knew the sun was coming.

C.S. Lewis did a lot of things well, and one of them is to expound on this idea of living in the darkness. In his book “The Silver Chair,” the second-to-last in the Chronicles of Narnia series, two children and a marshwiggle named Puddleglum find themselves in an underground land. The land had no sun, but it did have a kind of creepy lady who was essentially trying to make the little crew forget that the there was another world at all. Perhaps the “sun” they talked about was just their imagination’s rendering of the lamp in the room. Perhaps they had dreamed everything from this “upper world” they spoke of. Thankfully, Puddleglum managed to keep his head and give this little speech:

“Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things — trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia.”

As 1 Thessalonians 5:5 says, “For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness… But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.

Our very being as people is that we are made for the light, and our being as Christians seeks that out and embraces it. It changes everything about us. We go from constantly stumbling in darkness to living more fully, more knowledgeably in the light that we will one day live in entirely fully and with total knowledge. And in that eternal life that is the gift of God through the perfect sacrifice of His Son, “the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light, the nations walk, and the kinds of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day- and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:23-27).

I forget sometimes that in the long run, everything I am is about the light, and the day, or more plainly, about Christ and my salvation in Him. I can taste it now. I know that He is coming back to make all things new, and that even now He is working in my life and lives of others. I can see it. And I pray that my daily life shows that I believe in a sunrise and reflects the light even in darkness.

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Psalm 73

Well, my body decided that operating properly wasn’t as much fun as taking me entirely out of the lineup for a day or two. Since an attempt at writing a full post would likely be full of incoherent and incomplete sentences, I’d instead like to share one of my favorite Psalms with you. (This one is up there with my love for Philippians 3. That is to say, I quote it constantly and am a big fan.) It’s written by Asaph, a psalmist who it seems saw some of the best and the worst of Israel, and with whom I think it is easy to identify as Christians looking out at a miserably broken world. Here he speaks openly about struggling to trust God as the wicked seem to prosper and seeking Him even in the midst of the brokenness around him and within himself.

My favorite verses come at the end, and frequently form a prayer of mine:

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.

You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.

But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.

Do you ever “pray the Psalms” or other parts of the Bible? What verses are constantly on your mind and lips? I’d love to hear them!

Psalm 73:

Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart. 

But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.

For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

For they have no pangs until death;
their bodies are fat and sleek.

They are not in trouble as others are;
they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.

Therefore pride is their necklace;
violence covers them as a garment.

Their eyes swell out through fatness;
their hearts overflow with follies.

They scoff and speak with malice;
loftily they threaten oppression.

They set their mouths against the heavens,
and their tongue struts through the earth.

Therefore his people turn back to them,
and find no fault in them.

And they say, “How can God know?
Is there knowledge in the Most High?”

Behold, these are the wicked;
always at ease, they increase in riches.

All in vain have I kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence.

For all the day long I have been stricken
and rebuked every morning.

If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
I would have betrayed the generation of your children.

But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,

until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.

Truly you set them in slippery places;
you make them fall to ruin.

How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by terrors!

Like a dream when one awakes,
O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.

When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,

I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.

You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.

Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.

But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.