At the Threshold of the Day
“At the threshold of the new day stands the Lord who made it.” —Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
“It’s five o’clock.”
That phrase, uttered in the dark of our bedroom, used to mean, “We have another two hours to sleep.” But now, it’s a password between my husband and me, given from one to another as the gray dawn warms.
“It’s five o’clock,” he murmurs, and I stir, shifting the sleeping baby slightly so I can see the clock. He changes the baby; I feed her and settle her into the crib. And then we do the most ghastly thing: we get up.
My husband started it, this routine of waking with (or, in the winter, before) the sun. Now we rise together. He makes tea, and we drink it on the front porch (when the weather allows) or inside (when it doesn’t), on our aubergine couch. We read our Bibles. We pray. We talk quietly over ideas or the remembered fragments of our dreams. And we work: he prepares for his weekly Bible study or works from home. I write.
The sun creeps up into the sky behind us, the new day coming on gently at first, like a flame held to the edge of white paper.
Mornings used to be for sleeping, showering, getting dressed. But we had a child, and then children, and then children who could walk and talk (and disobey), and our days took on a beautiful but complex quality that left us feeling hollowed out by day’s end—happy, but fatigued. We processed in the evenings, went over the day’s events and laughed, wrung hands, or ate chocolate—whatever seemed appropriate. And then we curled up on the couch and watched an episode or two of a good show, jam jars of wine in hand. That was our time together.
But we were dealing with the day’s leftovers: leftover energy, leftover news, stories of things that had already happened. That time together was (and still is) important, but beginning the day together, meeting each other when the slate is clean and the sun is rising has lent a golden tint to those hours before breakfast, when we are free to laugh over things unrelated to the coming day or to read passages aloud to each other from our books or from the Bible. We are tired, but in a “waking up” sort of way that’s very different from the heavy fatigue of the evening.
We know couples who value that evening time—couples who have found, in those hours before bed, the perfect time for conversation, for study, for communion with each other. But most of the couples we know struggle, as we have, to find time to spend together at all, let alone to consistently read the Bible together. So after ten years of trying this and failing at that, we savor these early mornings as a gift: what some call the ungodly hour of five a.m. has become, for us, quite godly—a pocket of time all our own before the day's starting gun sounds.
Sometimes we sleep in; sometimes the baby wakes early; sometimes the world clamors loudly for our attention, and we respond. But more often than not, by the time we hear little feet traipsing down the stairs at seven, we’ve had hours together—two of them—in which to pray and study, to talk, to sit quietly, or to simply work alongside each other, sharing insights as we collect them.
We are at our best then, together with the Lord at the threshold of the day, and so the phrase, “It’s five o’clock,” has become not a complaint, but a benediction.
“It’s five o’clock.” The new day has begun.
“Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” (Psalm 90:14)