I woke up early when the sun was just coming in the window. My wife was still asleep and gave no indication of noticing my existence. I heard our mini-schnauzer Isabella stir and snort, and it was clear that she had snuggled somewhere deep underneath our bed.
It was a hard start, and my mind was completely on, already thinking of my "to-do" list, but I wouldn't have any responsibility for about two hours. I thought about the books by my bed, and then I remembered my smartphone on a side table. As I reached over to grab it I realized how tired I still was. I thought, "Why am I so awake when I'm so tired?" It is an odd paradox in the intersection between the activity of my mind, and the practical needs of my body. Why is it that so often my mind and body are at odds with one another?
This reminded me of some of Paul's writing in his letter to the Philippians: "Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose." (Phillipians 2:2) Paul talks to a church in Philippi, which he loves and is commending, encouraging them in the work in spreading the good news of Jesus Christ, and here in verse 2:2, he speaks about being with one mind and purpose. Not like those who, he later mentions, live according to their appetites with no humility or self control, but rather, to press on toward the "prize," which is a future full of hope given to us by God -- as a community.
In my mind, I see Paul's standard, which is the high calling of living a life of hope, grace and love; and yet in my own life with my actions, I've failed time and time again to be grace-filled, to embody hope for others, and pour out myself in an unselfish love. The words of Paul, echoing Christ's own challenges to us, ring out through my existence: "Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise" (Phillipians 4:8).
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I have to wake up again and again, and bring unity between the thoughts of my mind and the actions of my body. Like a piano that is in constant need of tuning, I seek the grand tuner. It is a daily process in which I am refined, chiseled or molded into who God needs me to be. And in my interactions with the body of Christ -- all believers who work to make this world a better place for all to live -- I'm better when I am in harmony with the others. Methodists call this "connectionalism," I just call it unity or Christian love.
I've seen those who would argue that being strong means tuning your actions to one's own desires and wants and to lean on our own inclinations. That, they argue, is the path to happiness. The problem I find with this is that it will eventually lead to destruction -- for the soul, for churches, for communities, and for the world. Imagine billions of people with undisciplined appetites destroying one another and our world to find that elusive happiness (you probably don't have to imagine).
Reality is waking up from the haze and finding purpose and completion in something bigger than finding the right ice cream for our movie night, or purposefully ignoring the weary and homeless among us.
It is about pulling back the veil of this dream we construct and live in and seeing what is really at the end of the tunnel. There is a God who loves everyone, who created us all, and who calls us to live lives of service to one another. When we wake up each morning, and ask, "What can I do?" The answer is always "go to others and care."
Columnist Daniel Griswold is the director of youth at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church. Follow him at twitter.com/dannonhill. Read his blog at www.danielgriswold.wordpress.com.