Have you noticed the clouds? Seems they’ve been particularly spectacular of late.
Were you a neighbour you might have seen me standing precariously on a rickety bench seat on the deck, neck craned to watch the cloud formations as they balloon and morph in a moody panorama.
There are those sweet little fluffy white ones, the kind in children’s books, harmless as a bunny loping in the sun.
There are the clouds that multiply into an expansive pattern, repeated like ripples in sand stretching out ad infinitum.
And (my favourite), there are the clouds that growl. They have steely edges and are backlit to give the illusion of added dimensions. Crispest white is contrasted with rumbling grey, deep and violent against a passive blue backdrop. Can you picture them? Billowing, curling like meringue, and dramatic as the stage makeup for a Broadway show.
I balance there, watching the performance, snapping a few pics with my SLR even while sensing the impending disappointment – because my awe always outstrips my technical know-how with a camera.
I learnt that there is such a thing as the Cloud Appreciation Society with a membership approaching 40,000 people who believe that, “clouds are unjustly maligned.”
“We pledge to fight ‘Blue-Sky Thinking’ wherever we find it. Life would be dull if we had to look up at cloudless monotony day after day,” the society’s manifesto reads.
BST exists beyond the atmospheric. Like every time I’m miffed when something clouds my tidy plans. When I’m frustrated by delays, inconvenience, setbacks, hurdles and so on. I mean, doesn’t God have my script?
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 gives some perspective to BST:
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
A relationship with God is not a free pass to a blue sky life. God doesn’t make promises to smooth out our future, to ensure an easy ride. Life’s tough. Rarely is there a completely cloud-free day. Always, little wafts of discontent thread into the blue and threaten to boil into a full-blown storm. And sometimes it’s completely out of our control.
Yet, such beauty.
Give me a moody, cloud-pocked sky over the idyllic flatness of blue any day. As in nature, so in humanity, the clouds – the tough, traumatic, heartbreaking times – create an inexplicable beauty. Beauty wrought through pain.
A few weeks ago I sat in the hospital beside my grandmother. She was dying, we both knew it.
Our hands were clasped and she rocked my hand in her timeworn one, the stories of a lifetime etched there. As I sat in the quiet, it hurt to see my robust Ma so reduced. This was Ma, whose suffocating bear hugs were legendary amongst us cousins, who taught us to dunk our Vegemite toast in our tea and whose faith was a legacy recognised by organisations including Gideons and Scripture Union.
The room was perfumed with flowers for her birthday the day before, and she rocked my hand and tried to speak.
“I love you, I love you, I love you,” Ma said, before I slipped out the ward.
The last words she said to me.
See, aren’t the clouds exquisite?
First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday February 8, 2016.