A number of years ago, amidst a season of physical, emotional, and spiritual burnout, I was asked to minister at a funeral. "Perfect," I thought sarcastically, "A dead man ministering at a funeral." Drowning in negativity from the seemingly incessant discouragement that I had been experiencing, the inability to find a non-cost prohibitive way to get there seemed par for the course. As I sat in the recliner staring at my laptop, my phone rang displaying a number that I did not recognize. My grumpy "Hello?" was met with the very gracious voice of a pilot who offered to fly me to the funeral.
I was stunned by such a lavish and sacrificial gift. "Why on earth would someone be so kind to me?" Unspoken, but equally felt was, "...especially when I am in this condition?" What I didn't recognize at the time was that God was initiating in love to place me on a path toward healing and restoration.
Still struggling to comprehend such extraordinary generosity, I met the pilot at a local airport. Before long, we settled into the cockpit of his plane. Communicating through headsets, he shared about the equipment and showed me the iPad where he would track our flight progress and monitor the weather. Soon we were off the ground.
The sky was a deep blue dotted by cumulus clouds that looked like floating cotton balls. As we approached a fluffy mass, the pilot looked at me and said, "We could fly around every cloud we encounter, but that would consume all of our fuel." Taking a quick glance at the gages, he turned back to me and said, "Sometimes you just have to fly through them." "And don't worry," he added with a reassuring smile, "I wouldn't fly through something that would put us in danger."
Entering the cloud, we were suddenly swallowed by what I could only describe as "grey nothingness." A tear ran down my cheek as I desperately tried to peer through the void. Shaking my head in confusion about the strange familiarity of it all, it struck me, "THIS is what I have been feeling for the last two months. Grey nothingness." I rested my forehead on the side window as another tear chased the first toward my chin. I inhaled deeply trying to suppress the deluge of tears that were welling up inside of me.
Unaware of all that God was awakening in my heart, the pilot cheerfully continued orienting me to what I was experiencing. "We are going to hit an air pocket and it's going to feel like you're driving over a speed bump." I physically braced myself only to discover that his description was exactly right. After a few quiet miles, his voice broke my reflective silence again explaining, "Now this one is going to feel like a pothole." Learning to trust his assessment, I relaxed and settled into my seat as his words accurately came to pass.
As the clouds began to thin, his prophetic words continued. "You will know when you are coming out of the clouds because you will see little bursts of blue sky." With warm assurance, he continued. "Those bursts will become more frequent and then all of a sudden there will be an explosion of blue sky." My heart leaped as his words came to fruition and the tears flowed freely as I longed for God to the same in my spiritual journey.
As we got out of the plane, I stepped onto the ground as Charles Wesley described, "Lost in wonder, love, and praise." I was disoriented by grace, feeling seen, feeling heard, feeling known, and feeling rescued by Love.
Perhaps you have felt surrounded by the "grey nothingness" of emotional or spiritual clouds. May I share with you some bursts of blue sky from my lesson in the clouds?
You cannot always avoid the clouds. Sometimes you have to fly through them. Asking the question, What Do You See in Your Clouds?, Oswald Chambers rhetorically answers, "In the Bible, clouds are always connected with God. Clouds are those sorrows or sufferings or providences, within or without our personal lives, which seem to dispute the rule of God. It is by those very clouds that the Spirit of God is teaching us how to walk by faith." Perhaps instead of consuming all of your fuel trying to avoid clouds, God is inviting you to soar through them.
You do not fly alone. God, your Pilot, wants to orient you along the journey - speed bumps, potholes, and all. Gleaning from Nahum 1:3, Chambers continues, "The clouds are but the dust of our Father’s feet... a sign that God is there." God's empowering presence surrounds you, even in the clouds, *enabling you to become the person He sees when He looks at you. That, my friend, is grace.
You will come through the clouds, and the explosion of clarity will come. Again, Chambers writes that perhaps, "Through every cloud He brings our way, He wants us to unlearn something. His purpose in using the cloud is to simplify our beliefs until our relationship with Him is exactly like that of a child - a relationship simply between God and our own souls." God is not a grumpy old professor scolding and punishing in order to teach us a lesson. Quite to the contrary. God, who is intentionally kind and relentlessly loving will not cease initiating in your life. He promises, "I'll take the hand of those who don't know the way, who can't see where they're going. I'll be a personal guide to them, directing them through unknown country. I'll be right there to show them what roads to take, make sure they don't fall into the ditch. These are the things I'll be doing for them - sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute" [Isaiah 42:16 MSG].
Peace, be still, beloved. Even in the clouds, you are undeniably seen, you are distinctly heard, you are intimately known, and you are profoundly loved. May the words of Charles Wesley be our testimony. "He speaks, and listening to his voice, new life the dead receive; the mournful, broken hearts rejoice, the humble poor believe." Thanks be to God.
As I have been rewriting this blog, a unique and beautifully orchestrated song called, "You Love Me," has been running through my mind. Trusting it will minister to you as it has spoken to me.
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