Photo © 2010 J. Ronald Lee (Creative Commons)
My mom has always been a morning person. She usually wakes several hours before the rest of the household, makes her morning coffee, and enjoys the quiet hours of the morning before anyone else is awake. Most often, she will read—her Bible, her prayer book, and whatever devotional book she happens to be reading at the time. Growing up, if I had a question in the early morning, I always knew where to find her: either sitting up in bed with her reading light on, a book in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other; or sitting in her favorite chair in the kitchen, sometimes with the window blinds open to enjoy the new-morning light. I don’t think I ever heard her say it in so many words, but I think those morning quiet times just might be her favorite time of the day.
Earlier this year, I woke up early to write, and my body protested a bit at first. I knew waking extra early, especially when I had a hard time getting to sleep the night before, would cause some amount of fatigue and frustration through the rest of the day. But after I grumbled a bit and then sat down at my desk and wrote for the first thirty minutes, I decided to open my window shade and see what the morning looked like. As the shade flew up, I gasped at the beauty of the scene I saw through my window. The sun had fully risen, but the long, morning shadows still lingered on the lawn, outrageously out of proportion. Everything was still and peaceful, a perfect summer morning. But what caught my eye and held it was the alfalfa field across our driveway. When I had heard the now-familiar sound of baling the previous night and looked outside to see the tractors making their slow, patterned progress through our field, I had crossed my fingers and hoped that we might wake up and be able to enjoy the hay bales for a short while before the wagons came to pick them up from the field. Lo and behold, that picturesque view now spread itself out before me.
Photo Credit: Linda Tanner (Creative Commons)
Understand that I’ve always had “a thing” for hay bales. My mom and I loved seeing them in the fields across the freeway from our house, and we would always comment on how pretty it looked whenever we would happen to drive by when there were bales on the ground. For me, it hearkens back to a simpler time, a quieter life of simplicity and appreciation of God’s creation. I can’t necessarily explain how I made such an explicit association, but I always have, for as long as I can remember.
As I gazed out my window in silence for several minutes that morning, just taking in the beauty of the scene, I thought to myself how this might just be the prettiest field of hay bales I had ever seen. (Then again, I imagine I’ll probably still think that every time I see our field baled in the months and years to come—but it’s still a relatively new experience!) The imperfect rows gave evidence of their imperfect, human creators, with some of the bales sitting horizontally and some vertically, some perfectly straight and neat, and some leaning sloppily to one side. Despite the imperfection of each individual bale, though, the field as a whole gave the impression of absolute perfection. A bird landed on the bale closest to my window and let out a trill into the quiet, morning air, and I reflected on the glory that radiates in the imperfect beauty of God’s creation.
True, the field could have been more perfect in a technical sense. Every bale and row could have been perfectly formed and aligned, exactly symmetrical in layout. But that would have destroyed half the charm. Sometimes the beauty is revealed most clearly in the imperfections—the crooked row halfway across the field, or that solitary bale that tilts so comically to one side. If anything in creation was perfect, it would have no need for change—no need for redemption. And after all, isn’t that one of the most profound things about creation? Despite the overwhelming beauty that can surround us, there is always lingering evidence of a need for redemption. The effects of sin and death work their way even into nature, and we know without anyone telling us that the world is far short of perfect.
But to the discerning eye, the imperfection reveals the true beauty. Recognizing a need for redemption means we recognize the depth of God’s care for what He has created. The world is imperfect to remind us that we need Him. Without the flaws and scars, we might tend to forget Him and our desperate need of His grace. Without the ongoing battle against sin in our daily lives, we might find ourselves tempted to think that we could reach Heaven on our own. It is the flaws, the struggles, and the imperfections that keep us mindful of the fact that this is not our final home. Our longing for pure beauty and true perfection keeps our hearts and minds stepping heavenward.
As I enjoyed the beauty of imperfection on that summer morning, I recognized just one more reason why my mom so appreciates her morning quiet times. Maybe God reveals His grace in a special way in those peaceful hours at the start of the day. And if that is indeed true, then surely the revelation is worth losing a bit of sleep, and the increased grace will enable me to survive the day despite the fatigue. I smiled as I thought about how much Mom will love to hear this story—how it will tickle her to know that I finally understand, in another small way, why she could bear to wake at what we always called “the crack of dawn” and revel in those few quiet hours of peace and grace-filled beauty. Best of all, she will be amazed and thrilled to know that I just might start to take advantage of that time myself.
God, in His infinite kindness, certainly has a sense of humor.