How a former Navy SEAL begins his day

Mark Divine is a former Navy SEAL commander and a best-selling New York Times and Wall Street Journal author. His article titled “A Navy SEAL’s Morning Routine To Stay Focused & Feel Great All Day” recently caught my eye. 

He recommends a twenty-minute “power ritual” composed of the following: 

  1. Find a calm space.
  2. Hydrate to fuel your body.
  3. Take just a few minutes to reflect.
  4. Focus on your breathing for at least five minutes.
  5. Mindfully move your body.
  6. Close the session by planning your day and preparing your mind “for winning.”

Divine writes that he developed this routine while serving in Iraq in 2004. As a result, “Despite the environmental stress that comes with being in a combat zone, I was able to start my day energized, focused, and feeling great, with a full reservoir of willpower to spend on the decisions and actions I needed to survive and accomplish my mission as a Navy SEAL leader during wartime.” 

If such a “ritual” could empower a Navy SEAL in a combat zone, surely the practice is relevant to the rest of us. 

“We must be hatched or go bad” 

Divine’s recommendations captured my attention because I had just read this reflection from C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity

“The real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.   

“We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our system: because now we are letting him work at the right part of us. It is the difference between paint, which is merely laid on the surface, and a dye or stain which soaks right through. He never talked vague, idealistic gas. When he said, ‘Be perfect,’ he meant it. He meant that we must go in for the full treatment. It is hard; but the sort of compromise we are all hankering after is harder—in fact, it is impossible. It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.” 

Why do we know this? 

This is one of my favorite glimpses into the personal life of Jesus: “Rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35). Think about it: no one but our Lord knew he did this. The disciples didn’t see him do so: they came looking for him later in the morning (v. 36). 

We know this about Jesus only because he wanted us to know it. Either his Spirit directly revealed this to Mark, or he led Peter (or another disciple) to share the experience with him. 

We don’t need to know why Jesus got up so early to go to a “desolate place” in order to follow the rest of the narrative: the disciples seek him out, he tells them they are to “go on to the next towns” (v. 38), and they therefore “went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons” (v. 39). 

But we do need to know why he got up so early if this is to be a model for us. And it is. 

We find Jesus’ example repeated across his ministry (cf. John 8:2; Luke 21:38). And we encounter it throughout God’s word:  

  • Abraham (Genesis 22:3)
  • Jacob (Genesis 28:18)
  • Moses (Exodus 34:4)
  • Joshua (Joshua 8:10)
  • Hannah and Elkanah (1 Samuel 1:19)
  • Job (Job 1:5)

Not all of these rose early to meet specifically with God, but each of them rose early to serve him. 

We cannot be much for God until we are much with him. He can only do through us what he can do in us. To change our culture today, we must first be changed by Christ. 

The simple priority of beginning the day with our Lord is vital to all we do to serve him. 

So, may I ask you: What is your routine for beginning the day with God?