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A Pre-Dawn Change of Perspective

I was sitting in my car around 4:30 this morning, having woken up at 3:30 to pound a room temperature cup of coffee that I made the night before, throw on some sneakers and running clothes, layer up for the unseasonably chilly weather, and then drive from New Haven to Vernon for my Friday 5am run with the Morning Crew, as our group text has been named. As I was sitting in my car in the pitch black, empty parking lot beside the trail, finishing up the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer while waiting for the others to arrive, I asked myself, again, as I often do on these early mornings, why do I put myself through this?

I thought of a conversation I was having with one of our PhD students earlier in the week. She was reflecting on trying to find God’s presence amidst the stress and the busy-ness of these final weeks of the semester, the heavy workload, the many demands and commitments pulling her in many directions, and the occasional lament of all that she has to get done in this tight window of time.  She then described the profound change in perspective when she reframed how she approached the work ahead, shifting from thinking about all that “I have to do,” to all that “I get to do.” Somehow in God’s wisdom, providence, and creativity, with the gifts that I have been given, “I get to engage with” this discipline, beauty, truth, or question.

Applying this to my early morning pre-dawn run, I reflected on how “I get to” enjoy the company of friends in this shared love of running, sharing the highs and lows we experienced since our last run together, the camaraderie of what it feels like to get older, to experience pain in new and unexpected places. “I get to” hear what the earth sounds like waking up before sunrise, and see the beauty of the budding trees lining the trail slowly become illuminated by the first rays of the rising sun. Before I tend to all the realities and demands that “I get to” engage with over the course of the day ahead, “I get to” experience the joy of having accomplished this one hour of exercise at its very beginning.

When we reframe our approach to the work ahead, transitioning from “I have to” to “I get to,” we gain a sense of agency and acceptance. Perhaps even gratitude arises as we recognize the potential that God sees within us to navigate whatever challenges may arise, along with the abilities and resources He has provided us to persevere.

And if that doesn’t help change our perspective, perhaps we can take to heart these words of encouragement from the Letter of Saint Peter, which we heard yesterday on the feast of Saint Mark: “Cast all your worries upon God because He cares for you…the God of all grace Who called you to His eternal glory through Christ Jesus will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you after you have suffered.”

Fr. Ryan Lerner, Chaplain

Fr. Ryan Lerner, Chaplain

Fr. Ryan Lerner is Yale's 8th Catholic Chaplain.