I live in an old seminary in Grand Coteau, a rural village of Louisiana. My third-floor bedroom window is about level with the tops of the trees which surround the building. Poking out of the sea of treetops, the steeple of the wood-frame country church is clearly visible. All of it—the church, the trees, and the seminary building—are more than a hundred years old. I’m the only thing that is young in this scene.
Most mornings, I wake up before sunrise and stumble downstairs for a large cup of coffee. When I return with it, I turn off my air-conditioning and crack open the window so that I can feel the warm, humid breeze and listen to the winding-down of the nighttime insects (What are they? Crickets? Grasshoppers? Cicadas?) and the winding-up of the birdsong of the day.
And I begin to pray. Sometimes my brain gets going and I think holy thoughts or imagine something sacred. But other times I just sit in the stupor of not-yet-awake-ness and let my five senses do the work of communicating with the One who created it all.
It is only this morning that I realized that every one of my senses is engaged in this pre-dawn ceremony. My smell and taste relish the strong, rich Louisiana coffee. My air-conditioned skin suddenly is awakened by warmth and humidity. My ears enjoy the operatic drama of cicadas and mockingbirds. And my eyes feast on the emerging dawn displaying before me an old unmoving steeple-cross serenely presiding over mighty oaks.
I did not rationally construct a ritual involving all five senses. The chair facing outward, the open window, the strong cup of coffee—they converged slowly—seemingly accidentally—over time. And this makes me wonder: did each one of my five senses gently poke and prod my unconscious self until that sense, too, could absorb God first thing in the morning? Or, perhaps the senses conspired together to make sure that every hungry human receptacle in me was taking in God in one accord? Either way, it makes me think of Augustine’s insight about restless hearts. Perhaps it is not only our hearts that are restless for God. Perhaps our nose and ears and eyes and skin and tongue are ravenously craving God as they awake to a new day.