Saturday, November 7, 2009

Dawn

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
Proverbs 4:18 ESV
I ran across this proverb a few weeks ago when I was wondering why it takes so long to finally "get it" as a Christian. Do you see in it what I see?

One of my treasured memories during a period of my life when I regularly went fishing on Lake Livingston with a buddy of mine happened one morning very early. It was a Friday morning. (I was a pastor in those days, and I regularly took a day off on Fridays. I was fortunate to have a good almost-retired friend who had a boat and a house on the lake. No cell phones in those days, so it really was a day off.)

My buddy's name was Al. He had worked for Exxon for 30+ years and had earned something like six weeks' vacation per year, and he took those days one at a time, on Fridays...fishing. And, I was the beneficiary of it.

On this particular Friday morning, we had made an extra effort to be on the water when the sun rose. The water was as still as glass in the fading moonlight as Al killed the motor. Being the first boat on the lake that morning, it appeared, we went to our best spot first, knowing that there was a friendly competition to see who would catch the lunker of the day, so we quietly, but skillfully, went about the business of readying ourselves for the excitement of that first cast.

No sooner than the light of the moon faded, hints of daylight began to peek above the silhouettes of the pine trees at the edge of the bank at the point we had chosen. The ripples in the water from the gentle movement of the boat became mere wrinkles and finally ceased. Our stealthy arrival was successful as we let ourselves simply drift without disturbing the sleepers below with the plop of an anchor.

The light was such that we could only see well enough to know which direction to cast--toward the silhouettes. Details of the surroundings were not visible. The freshness, the fragrance of the trees and natural decay along the muddy bank, and the stillness...the utter stillness of the crisp morning...were impressed upon my senses so powerfully that today, over twenty years later, it is a moment I capture frequently when I need an escape from the obscenity of the noise and nagging necessities of everyday life.

As I was looking down, carefully tying the lure for my first cast, Al tapped me on the shoulder gently with the end of his fishing rod. I looked up, and he directed my eyes to a scene on the bank where a young fawn had come down to the water's edge to take a drink. The distance was no more than thirty feet away. We couldn't see where the mother was, but we imagined we were being watched carefully. The baby looked at us for a few moments, holding his stillness, but seeming not to fear. He dipped his tongue in the cool water again, and I strained to listen for the lapping sound, but heard none.

After a satisfying drink, the fawn hopped swiftly away from the water's edge and was out of sight, into the trees, before I was ready to give him up. As he disappeared into the woods and brush, the sounds of the watching mother joining her baby's escape could be heard, as both mother and child hastened to go about their day, doing whatever deer do.

Our eyes having adjusted to the increasing light, we made our first cast without speaking. I don't remember who spoke first, but something was said about the beauty of the moment making the day worthwhile. We didn't catch a lunker. In fact, the day was interrupted shortly afterward by my catching Al in the back with a treble hook (the second time in five years), and my driving him to a clinic in Livingston to get the hook removed.

By the time we got back to the boat, the enchantment of the morning had passed, and the brightness of the day was upon us. As the day grew longer, the lake got crowded, and the odor of motor oil and gasoline replaced the fragrance of the morning.

On the drive home, we talked openly about the deer, but privately, I wondered how that day had played out for the fawn. I wondered how long he would live and what his routines were like. It was fascinating to know that the twenty-four hour cycle is one which all of creation experiences, though in dramatically different ways.

The proverb in today's passage is simple, but hopefully more poignant than before. We cannot expect ourselves to fully "get it" when we are taking our very first steps onto the path of righteousness. It is like the light of dawn. Though our first experiences of righteousness may flood us with unfathomable memories and sensations, especially as we catch that first glimpse of God's magnificent grace, the first steps must be abandoned for the next step...and the next...and the next.

The richness of those first steps is not lost as we tread into the full light of day. The path is marked. As the day brightens, the first steps are remembered, shared, and celebrated. And, they are called upon time and time again as clouds attempt to hide the light and cause our pursuit of righteousness to wane. We hearken back to those first moments of light to remember the joy, the crispness, and the Spirit who filled us so that we could say with the Psalmist, my cup runneth over.

The path of righteousness is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
May the joy of remembering be yours today.

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