One of my favourite experiences as a teen hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains was being among the clouds. At certain peaks the weather system aligned with the precipice. You might walk out of the woods to a clear and bright view, miles of Appalachia before your eyes, only then minutes later to be swallowed whole by a cloud barely able to see your fellow hiking companions.
I think it has come to my mind more than a few times this past week. Can you see the metaphor unfold in light of current events?
Our world as we know it has been clouded over. We might feel lost in a fog. There is much that has been blocked from our view.
Two weeks ago, I could have confidently (maybe too confidently) laid out what the rest of my year was going to look like: when and where we were travelling, activities booked for the kids, and just a contented continuation of “normal”. And then in an instant, it feels I have been swallowed by a cloud, unsure of what is ahead.
As we have witnessed in the world around us, a sense of the unknown can create anxiety and even panic. Social media has become a place of sharing anxiety, while also watching and commenting on the anxiety of others. From toilet paper memes to fake news updates, compassionate prayers to harsh criticism, we all seem to be fumbling around in the dark doing the best we can.
But as I reflected on my hiking experience as metaphor I realized something. I wasn’t scared in that cloud. Here are the things that were true then that might help us now:
While my sight was robbed there was comfort knowing my friends were still there.
While disorienting it was always a welcome moment of stillness in place of the constant trekking.
While the threat of a storm was real, there was enough time to make it back into a place of shelter.
While restricted in movement (so you didn’t accidentally step off a cliff) the presence of wind reminded me, “This too shall pass”.
But the most incredible part of being swallowed whole by a cloud, the reason it is one of my favourite memories, is the nearly palpable presence of God in the quiet, calm hug of stillness and awe. I felt so small in those moments, but God’s largeness filled me with wonder. Without my sight, I still felt seen. God knew exactly where I was and he was with me. A God of creation, who made clouds and mountain tops meet, that splendour was joy felt deep in my bones.
Do you remember the story of Moses on Mt. Sinai? Here is an excerpt from Exodus 24, “When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day, the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud. To the Israelites, the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.” And the Lord spoke to Moses in the cloud.
I love that to the Israelites it looked like a consuming fire. That also feels like a timely metaphor, no? The cloud, this crisis, can be scary to us, consuming and destructive. God knows that but he is also a God who meets us in the cloud, and in the fiery furnace (see Daniel 3).
I think there is room for this to be true now. So I invite you to reflect and spend time with him, let yourself be stilled in his presence as he swallows you in a cloud.
How are you experiencing God in this fog? What character traits of his is he revealing to you?
How is he showing up for you?
Is he speaking to you? Is there an image in your own life he has brought to mind? If not an image, possibly a song from him, a bible verse, a sensation, a positive emotion you can link to his presence?
Many of us have time right now for contemplation. Can we press into him? This might be a bold question, but can we enjoy his presence in the midst of this crisis?
Want a little more St. Pete’s in your week? St. Pete’s just posted the first two episodes of our podcast Ordinary Matters. Check it out for more thoughts on how to love well during this time! Are you looking for daily disciplines for prayer and Scripture reading? Download the Daily Offices. Please join us for virtual church on Sunday.