Dawn is just coming on. The eastern sky, now pale, grows lighter. The mountains to the east form a dark silhouette. The lake is still. I want to leave it that way, as much as possible, as I quietly slip my kayak onto its waters and glide through the mist that hovers just above the lake's surface. I am alone for the moment, as I begin a four-mile round trip to the far end of this lake and back. In an hour, a slight scattering of fishermen will line the shore, a skiff or two may ride its surface. But for now it is just the lake and the mist and me, as a red-tailed hawk circles overhead.
This is our first summer living in the mountains. Paddling the lake already has become a frequent and favorite way to begin a day. Now, as summer drifts into fall, the mornings feel brisker. I hope to keep up these early-morning rides for as long as possible, although I know that come winter, while the lake will not freeze over, it will be edged with snow. Will I be out on the lake then? I don't know. I savor these moments even more.
It's a good time to reflect, to absorb the near-silence, to notice the deer grazing along the far shore, and to look at the days ahead or contemplate those behind.
As the kayak slips through the water, and the rhythm of the paddling becomes a constant in the background, a line from a psalm surfaces in my thought. "He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul" (23:2, 3). Despite my long familiarity with the passage, it carries fresh meaning. Out here on this lake's still waters, it rings true. These morning outings are renewing. They are, to use the Psalmist's term, restorative. Maybe that's it. Maybe that feeling of being renewed and restored is what draws me here for these early-morning outings.
A trout, seeking breakfast, jumps off to the left of my kayak; a crow caws somewhere in the distance. The sun has broken above the mountain ridge behind me, and its light floods across the lake's surface, transforming it from dark blue to shimmering silver and gold.
As I continue my paddle, thinking of the beauty before me and of the Psalmist's "still waters," I realize that, like him, I don't believe the scenery is what restores our souls, our spiritual sense of being.
Beautiful as this setting is, I know that for me â€“ just as for the Psalmist â€“ it is the Almighty, the Shepherd, that restores. Though we are centuries apart, the same Shepherd that restored him is restoring me.
How? By leading me, leading my thought to the quiet contemplation of His nature. I consider other names for the Shepherd: God, divine Love, Principle. They help me glimpse a bit more of God's nature. They remind me of His harmony, His order, His understanding, and His unflappable calm. I am grateful when I see these things â€“ His spiritual qualities â€“ in my thought and in my life. As I glimpse how He constantly leads me to see and embody these qualities, I also glimpse how His restorative action occurs.
I recall something from the Christian Science textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy. I count this book second only to the Bible in terms of what it has taught me about God as a restorer. It says, "It is our ignorance of God, the divine Principle, which produces apparent discord, and the right understanding of Him restores harmony" (p. 390).
I've swung my kayak around now and am heading back, heading straight into the blindingly bright sunrise. It's so brilliant I have to turn my head aside. Instead of looking ahead, I'm gazing at the shoreline and the Jeffrey pines and the mountain peaks in the distance.
I'm reminded that God sometimes restores my soul â€“ my spiritual sense of things â€“ with all the brilliance of a head-on sunrise. And at other times He reaches me with the quietness of a presunrise moment. Either way, I'm grateful for this new day He's given me. I'm glad to be restored.