This week, Morning Prayer continued to work on me as I worked with it.
Morning Prayer in the forms I have experienced it, opens with these words, “O Lord open our lips, and our mouths shall proclaim your praise.” Though I usually say “my” since I am by myself. Regardless of how many people you find yourself in the company of, there is a lot of promise in those words. It’s not that our mouths’ might, or could, or even will proclaim God’s praise if the Lord opens our lips, but we are promised with a very firm “shall,” that if God opens our lips, what will proceed forth from them is praise.
What I was finding this last week, however, was that more often than not, the words that were proceeding from my lips when they were first opened in the morning were not praise. I could only conclude, therefore, that the one that was opening my mouth in the morning was not God, but rather, me. I am generally not what you would call a morning person, and last week I was not feeling great. You can add to that as well, my wife was out of town for a conference for several days and it was looking like snow might delay her from getting home when she was scheduled to do so. It was a stressful few days, yes, but I’ve also found that if you are willing to look, stressful times are good at holding up a mirror to look in. Though I can’t say that I took a good hard look in the mirror that was being held up for me, I did peek. What I saw with my peek was this; the word that was first coming out of my mouth almost every morning was, “What?” This was not a “What?” as in what did you say because I couldn’t hear, it was not a pleasant “What do you want for breakfast?” or “What can I help you with to get ready for school” It was simply one word, short, curt, and gruff in tone, “What?” The unspoken words being “do you want?” and the meaning behind them being “Leave me alone, don’t talk to me, and can’t you just take care of yourself.”
Oddly, while all of this was going on, the words to the beginning of morning prayer were starting to run around in the back of my mind, “O Lord open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.” Along with these words, there started to arise some dissonance within me that just kind of said, “This is not quite right, this is not living into the promise. But it is what happens when you open your own mouth.”
With the gift of a peek in the mirror bringing this to consciousness, the last couple of mornings I’ve woken up to the words, “O Lord open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.” already running through my mind. However, they have turned themselves from a declarative statement, into a plea, a supplication, a desire to live with and in God’s promises. With the same words as always, “O Lord open my lips.” The prayer goes along these lines, “Please Lord, open my lips, because when I do it, I’m no good at it.”
I wish that I could report that this has all somehow magically turned me into a morning person, and that I’m looking forward to getting up on the next school day before the sun rises to deal with whatever minor crisis arises as everyone gets ready to leave for school. It hasn’t and I’m not. God opening my lips has not made the concept or practice of morning any more tolerable to me. What is has done is make me a little more tolerable to be around for others. It’s just a small change but God opening my lips has softened the edge of my “What?” a little bit. God opening my lips has led to a little more seeking of information and willingness to help. God opening my lips has allowed the possibility of compassion to exist. It’s a small thing, I’ll take it, but more important is what it offers others to receive.