Last September, I started on a program of daily physical exercise, just twenty minutes of strengthening and stretching my tummy and leg muscles. I’m happy to report that I’ve lost five pounds – not much over five months, but my joints feel great, loose and supple. When I told others about my new health regimen, I said, “It’s easy. Tom and I do the exercises together first thing in the morning, in bed.” Everyone laughed. I struggled to explain. The most important part of the program for me is that we do the exercises before breakfast. Exercise on an empty stomach seems to kick-start my sluggish metabolism for the entire day.
Our faith life functions in the same way. For nearly thirty years, I have started each day with God, through prayer, scripture and daily reflection. These exercises get my spiritual being rolling for the day. Similarly to my body, missing intentional exercise for my spirit means I don’t have the strength to resist today’s temptations, the stamina to withstand today’s trials or the gratitude to enjoy today’s gifts.
All you need for this spiritual program is a Bible, preferably one in modern English for ease of understanding, a book of daily reflections, and time. (I also need pen and paper.) It’s the time that is most difficult. Thirty years ago, I started getting up a half hour earlier than the rest of our household so that I could have special quiet time with God. At first, it felt like a huge sacrifice. Eventually, that time became a precious gift. Today, as I settle into retirement, once again I struggle with time. Often, I give in to my love for late nights and need to sleep in. I’ve learned that if I don’t start with God, the day disappears and I’ve never got back to my prayer time. My morning reflection time is a sacrifice as well as a precious gift. It’s well worth every single moment.
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35)