I have always been a morning person. Even as a teenager I savored the dawn, loved watching the sun gradually touch the gray mountain peaks with gold. Here in Minnesota, I have been blessed to greet the sun rising over the lake outside my window every morning.
We moved this week, and now are temporarily living in a house with windows over another lake, in the opposite direction. Now I am watching sunsets.
When I was small, we lived a few blocks from the western shore of the U.S. Sometimes after supper we would stroll down to the cliffs, to the edge of the world in my mind, to watch that golden ball slip silently into the shimmering ocean. It seemed like a holy moment, long before I learned that there was a God behind it all.
There have been 21,696 sunrises and sunsets since I first took breath on this earth. How many more will there be until I take my last?
Psalm 139 says that God has determined the number of our days. No accident, no disease, no catastrophe can alter that determination. I am safe within His knowing; within His allotment of days for me.
Today might hold my last sunrise. Perhaps before the sun sets I will step into the land where there is no need of the sun; the land whose brilliance is unchanging, forever lit by the glory of God. How will I live these hours given? How will I love?
“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” it says in the Psalms. “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”
To number our days means to consider their brevity; to make wise use of the gift of life, sometimes through Spirit-infused productivity, sometimes through contemplation and appreciation, but always mindful of the love that has formed us and found us, gifted us and afflicted us, known us and held us.
“In him we live and move and have our being,” Paul explained to the philosophers of Athens. With each rising and resting we live in the presence of One who neither slumbers nor sleeps, always reaching down, reaching in, to draw us close.
I’ll step outside to watch the sun sink beyond the shore tonight, mindful that in its setting there is a rising in places beyond my vision, places where others are welcoming a new dawn, my endings linked to their beginnings.
I am determined to live wisely, then, in gratitude and perseverance, each sunrise and sunset marking the approaching time when my ending marks my beginning, one last sunset linked to the beautiful day when, as the prophet Malachi says, the sun will rise with healing in its wings, and we will leap with joy in its everlasting light.