He sat at the kitchen table sipping on the hot Chock-Full-Of-Nuts™ coffee that had just been brewed through the Kuerig™ and read the headlines from the morning paper as he did most mornings. This pastor noted the arrest of someone for a Meth Lab and a story or two about local businesses. Then for no real reason he looked up and out the window across the kitchen.
Drinking from his Duke Divinity mug, one purchased from the Baptist Student Union while he was still in seminary, this Methodist pastor took the three short steps over to window and looked out upon the mountains that made up the horizon. Purple and orange light burst over the edges of the mountains with a dim shade of blue highest in the sky. He blew across the surface of the steaming cup of coffee and smiled. “I can’t count the number of beautiful sunrises I have seen from this place,” he said to himself or the coffee because no one else was around.
He continued to stand at the window and watch the changing sunrise as he thought back over the last year or so in his life and ministry. He remembered the first beautiful sunrise that he witnessed there in the Southern mountains of West Virginia, the excitement he had in seeing it and rushing to take a photograph of it for his family to see.
His mind wandered back to a photo of a sunset that his oldest at-home daughter had taken while she had ridden on top of a bus, a quarter of the world away in Nicaragua several months before. He remembered the tears she shed as she shared about the photo and the people and the whole experience of being that far way and yet feeling right at home. She came home filled with tears that flooded our home for several days and when they did stop she had a peace about her that father, the pastor, had not seen in a long time – at least not in himself. Sometime during those days, he remembered her saying, “Daddy, it doesn’t matter where we are but I would like to see your smile again.”
Watching as the blue of the daylight took over more and more of the orange and purple of the sunrise, the pastor’s mind wandered back to a tennis court and his youngest daughter. It was a hot day in June and quite possibly the last time they would hit any balls on this court. They had a great time laughing and chasing each other’s badly hit shots and celebrating the good points that she made. He even remembered one very lucky shot of his own that left his daughter’s jaw dropping as she tried to figure out how her “old Dad” had hit the ball so soundly. The look on her face brought a laugh to him then and now.
Yet thinking back, he recalled that he had chosen the side of the court facing the sun. He wanted to see it set – again. He looked forward to it setting each and every day because it meant the day was over and there would be no more trouble. It may have been a hot summer day, but the sunset signaled something different, something almost wintry. Night meant rest and he looked for rest like he would look for a lost child – desperately and deliberately.
The coffee cup was on the counter now and he was leaning into the sink, the sunrise almost over and the day well on its way to beginning but he thought back to all those sunsets he watched for the last year or so of serving before he moved. He knew his fascination with them was more than just the beauty that they might bring. He knew he watched because he was willing something to end – if not the turmoil he had inside, then at least the day. So he watched the sunset time and time again.
He rinsed out his cup and put it in the top rack of the dishwasher before he walked back over to the table to straighten the paper. He took one last look out the window and smiled thinking about the sunrise he had just witnessed. Was it number 18? 19? 20? He just wasn’t sure. He just knew it was strange for a January morning. He was surprised by them in the summer, used to them by Fall, but now they held a special place for him as he witnessed them in the midst of Winter. He thought of the coffee, the smile, the rush to get to the window to see as much of the sunrise as possible. The pastor smiled the smile his daughter had been missing. He laughed the laugh that he himself had thought lost in a sunset somewhere. The day had begun and the journey towards home continued.