I open my eyes and look at the digital clock next to my bed. 5:29 a.m. I quickly reach for it and move the small switch to the right, turning off the alarm that will otherwise sound within seconds. Sliding out of bed I stand in the darkness and reach onto the floor where there is a pile of clothes and a pair of shoes. I pick them up and quietly, leave my bedroom, and get dressed in the bathroom. It is October and I know that it is the low 40’s outside. I put on a t-shirt, a hooded sweatshirt, shorts, a stocking hat, socks, and a pair of damp running shoes. I drink a small glass of water and exit the front door onto my unlit porch.
I waste no time standing in the cold, damp air. I begin to jog down the street, slightly uphill. It is brisk, but my hands and legs are the only parts of me that feel really cold. I pull my hands into the sleeves of my sweatshirt. I should have worn gloves. My breath creates small puffs of vapor as I make a right turn, beginning a routine five-mile loop.
It is quiet at 5:45 a.m. I hear the rhythmic sound of my steps. I notice the distant rumble of the ocean just two miles to the west. The birds are waking up, chirping. A garbage truck lumbers loudly down a nearby alley.
Under the streetlights, the grass on the lawns looks like glitter. I pass a homeless man stirring under a sleeping bag in the entryway of a business. A pair of raccoons trot across the road a block away. Dim light begins to appear on the eastern horizon as the stars fade. A man in his bathrobe hastily runs out of his house, grabbing a newspaper from his driveway. Traffic is still light, but more cars are appearing as people rush off to work.
I am not thinking about running at all. My body is in autopilot mode. My thoughts are skipping from work, to worry, to family, to my tasks for the day. A subconscious worship chorus runs in the background of my thoughts. Prayers formulate naturally as I combat worry and formulate a plan for the day. The miles clip by without thought.
My body is now warm, and I remove my stocking hat, turning it into a glove on my right hand. An errant cloud passes overhead, releasing a shower for five minutes. The rain wets my cheeks and is refreshing. The trees breathe, filling the air with the smell of rain.
Four miles have passed and my mind is clear and focused. Natural endorphins have contributed to the calming of my nerves. I am neither sore nor fatigued, although I notice some tightness in my right Achilles tendon.
By the time I get home, I am finally fully awake. I have a plan. I have prayed. I am ready for the day. This has been my routine for the past 43 years. Every single day, I wake up and run.
There are people who run to lose weight. There are people who run so that they can finish a marathon. But there are some for whom running is part of being human. Their bodies were made to run, and it is natural for them. If they miss a day, because of an illness or travel, their emotions become darker. Their bodies remain lethargic. They depend on the daily devotion. While most of the world sleeps, we runners come alive.
The same can be said of spiritual devotion. For some, daily worship is a way to do damage control or a way to fulfill a New Year’s resolution. Perhaps it is a way to avert guilt or shame. But for others, daily worship is a way to come alive. It is not a hobby or a compartment of life.
Daily devotions are merely one expression of a life of devotion.