I am not naturally an early riser. I am disciplined enough to get up with the sound of my alarm when it’s necessary, but not without at least one snooze. I relish the rare alarm-free morning, especially if the kids sleep a little later than usual.
When my husband and I went on vacation recently without the kids, one of the things I was looking forward to most was sleep. The ability to go to bed when I wanted and get up when I felt ready, and maybe even take a nap if the moment felt right.
Yet, the entire vacation, I never slept later than 7:00 am. In fact, most days I woke up by 5:30, though I usually didn’t roll out of bed until after 6:00.
The first day when this happened, I got up, rather oblivious to what time it was. After all, clocks are optional so far away from work and school and responsibilities. My husband and I both got out of bed, and started making coffee and breakfast before he laughed and told me the time.
Why did we get up so early? Because of this: every morning, we awoke to a stunning sunrise, our own private view of Nicaraguan scenery painted in pinks and yellows.
As the sun filled our eyes, the sounds of cicadas, birds, and monkeys filled our ears. The earth was waking up, and we arose right along with it. We couldn’t avoid it, but neither did we want to. These were some of the most peaceful and lovely mornings I have ever experienced.
One reason this worked was because of when we went to bed. The sun would set by 6:00 pm, while we were eating dinner, and after that, there wasn’t a whole lot to do. We would read some by the dim lights of the house, but being off the grid, on solar power, there wasn’t a ton of light to come by. We would walk out to the deck to say goodnight to the star-filled sky, and head to bed.
Usually, the lights were off and our heads were on our pillows by 9:00 pm. Sometimes even earlier.
So, when the morning sun broke through the haze of our sleep, we were rested, and we were ready to greet it. We paid attention to when the world around us was sleeping and waking, and we followed suit.
It was a lovely and unforced cycle of days.
I think about how often I force my life. When I go to bed isn’t based on how tired I am, but how long it takes to get that one last thing done before I sleep. (Or, let’s be honest, that one last show watched.) When I wake up isn’t based on how rested I feel, but trying to get up a bit before my kids to get a jump start on my day. Those habits aren’t necessarily bad: it takes some discipline and sacrifice to achieve goals and get stuff done. But it’s the rule, not the exception, that I sleep based on when I can or should, not based on what the rhythm of the earth or my body is telling me.
We have a pattern of forcing life into calendars and schedules and “shoulds”. We have lost touch with the natural rhythms of life.
Too often, we live by pushing instead of by listening.
What would it be like to bring some counter-cultural patterns into our days? To sometimes let the sun shine brighter than our calendars and our bodies speak louder than our expectations? How might this help us live by listening more than pushing? How might this make room to hear even more, maybe even the voice of God in our midst?
I want to bring that little piece of vacation back to real life with me. How about you?