FACING THE ELEMENTS
THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE CANVAS
By Rayola Kelley
I have been talking about the elements of the world. We can at times ignore what is happening around us when it comes to the weather and phenomena such as earthquakes and volcanos but the reality is that when a weather crisis comes to our neighborhood, we are forced to face the elements. We may have a nervous breakdown, fall down and cry because of it, stomp our feet against it in grave protest, throw our hands up in utter disgust, and give up in complete surrender to its darkness of depression and despair. However, no number of actions will change what is. There is no one who has earned the right to be an exception to life’s cycles, challenges, and disruptions and what is left is not a bad nightmare, but the reality of a matter.
In my younger years, I thought that I was an exemption to the challenges of life; after all, I was the center of my world and could not imagine such things hitting my life. I selfishly was content to recognize that such events always happened to the other guy, never me. Therefore, in my ignorance and naïve state, I could not imagine great loss occurring to me and my family.
What I failed to recognize is that loss was part of my family. It was woven into its very fiber, but it was so normal to me that I never recognized the great cost that was incurring in the family unit. The losses occurred in conflicts between family members, hurt feelings due to misunderstandings, wounded egos, broken hearts, tormented souls, guilty consciences, and compromising convictions, all which sowed nasty seeds of discord in every crevice. They were not blatant crises but they caused enough cracks and cuts in relationships that mistrust took root, bitterness began to flourish, touchy feelings replaced the gauge of reasoning, and rights took to the hills to come out on top as a type of “king of the hill” as a means to justify unbecoming attitudes and behaviors towards others.
As a family and individuals, we may have dodged some blatant crisis, but we ended up with big “elephants” in the room that always had to be sidestepped to avoid war. We had secrets that created certain decay in attitudes that leavened the relationships with perversion and suspicion. The things that were to bind us, such as traditions, were often propped up by unrealistic expectations of a few that caused a tug-of-war that often enough threw mud on the whole event. Sadly, the potential to have a wonderful time was squandered because those with personal agendas, contrary spirits, and unbecoming attitudes could not simply accept or let others be, and try to be pleasant regardless of disagreements. As a result, people were rarely allowed to enjoy each other, cherish the time together, and catch nuggets of moments that could fill a scrapbook with sweet memories.
I can remember one Thanksgiving where there was no fighting before, during, or after our Thanksgiving dinner. We also had some pleasant family reunions, but at such times, those with contrary personalities were not present to set off a spark or start some conflict.
I learned that the struggles that occurred were not a manifestation of different personalities or real disagreements; rather, it was the conflict that was occurring within individual souls that always spilled out to the rest of the family members. This contrary attitude always marches in with a chip on the shoulder, permeating the room with a bad attitude. It quickly became clear that touchy feelings served as a match that, once lit and put to a fragile tinder pile of the ego, started a battle, resulting in conflict, and a war that would sweep others into its current.
I realize it is hard for most people to acknowledge that the people in their families are far from perfect and that certain dynamics are present that can cause indigestion, trepidation, and the unpleasant activity of walking softly to avoid setting off a minefield.
When we want to avoid the obvious realities about family members, we need to remember what Jesus said about His earthly family to remind ourselves that the different members of our family are humans, sinners, and doomed without the lover of their souls (Romans 3:23; 6:23). It does not matter how much we love them, adjust our religious attitudes about subjects such as sin, hell, heaven, and so forth to make a quasi-peace between our beliefs and them, each member is either lost or saved based on the type of relationship they have with Jesus. This is why Jesus came to save whosoever will believe.
Jesus was clear that He did not come to bring peace to a family, but to bring a sword of truth that will often cause conflict between family members, divide them, and cause separation. It was for this reason that Jesus said that our love for our earthly family must pale in comparison to our love for Him, and that those who are of His heavenly family are those who do the will of the Father. Since we can’t serve two masters, we must remember we can’t have divided loyalties between our earthly family and our eternal Master. We must guard the place Jesus must hold in our lives as Lord, to avoid idolatry, uphold truth to be realistic about what is going on, let things be what they are to maintain sanity, and realize that we can’t change someone’s character, attitudes, and focus. It is God alone who is capable of changing the terrain of a soul and we must leave such matters in His hands. Granted, we can pray, avail ourselves to be used, and be an example of genuine Christianity, but the Lord is the only one who can convict a conscience of sin, save a soul, revive a spirit, transform a mind, and renew the inner character to bring forth a new creation (Matthew 16:24; 10:34-40; 12:48-50; Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:22-24).
People remind me of the clouds. I don’t know about you but for me clouds set the mood on the canvas of the sky just as people set the mood in relationships and homes. We know the winds carry the clouds and the breath within man is what allows him to move, interact, and have his very being in the physical world (Acts 17:27-28).
We know the cloud is what houses and carries the precipitation to different areas. Job 28:25 tells us that God makes the weight for the winds and the waters and in Job 37:16, we are informed that He knows the balance of the clouds. In other words, He is the one who weighs all matters when it comes to balancing out and maintaining order in creation. In many ways creation is a fine-tuned instrument that is aligned to keep in tune with the Creator. Proverbs 16:2 states that God also weighs the spirits (breath) behind man which always seems clean to man, and that He also weighs the moral goodness and justice of man’s actions.
Once again, we see that if God was uninvolved with the workings of creation, there would be total chaos, yet man excludes Him from his life and finds that chaos abounds, misery is his lot, despair his companion, and hopelessness the bitter cup he must constantly drink from, but he still refuses to acknowledge God. He stiffens his neck against truth and repentance, and as a result he walks around with a dark cloud upon his soul.
Dark clouds serve as a covering that can hide the light. Job 38:9-10 makes reference to the cloud as a garment, a thick darkness, a swaddling band to set a boundary in relationship to bringing forth His workings in creation. At Mount Sinai, God covered His glory in a dark cloud. The darkness of the cloud kept the Israelites at bay, while Moses was beckoned to embark into the darkness of the cloud in order to face the light and receive the fullness of the Law. He fasted for seven days before God spoke. In that darkness, Moses was being prepared to hear, to see, and to receive that which was from heaven.
Sinai was Israel’s Pentecost, and we see where like Moses those in the upper room had to first tarry. How long did the 120 souls wait for the light and fire of the Holy Spirit to come upon them in Acts 2? Pentecost happened 50 days after the Feast of the First Fruits (Christ’s resurrection). Jesus was upon the earth in His new glorified body for 40 days before His ascension, the number for testing and trials. That means they waited ten days. Ten points to perfect order and can be broken down into (2×5) two (unity/contrast), fives (grace) that point to unity upheld by grace or 3 (completion) + 7 (perfection). It is not unnatural to begin waiting in the unknown that is shrouded in darkness as a means to be prepared for that which will prove completed, after brought to order that ultimately displays perfection.
There are different types of darkness. There is the darkness of separation. Unrepentant man is separated from God who is the true light of the world. A veil is over his mind so he can’t see the light of heaven penetrating through the darkness. There is a spiritual darkness that is so thick that unregenerate man gropes in it. He thinks he sees, yet he fails to see the great abyss of destruction that is ahead of him (Isaiah 59:10; Matthew 6: 2 Corinthians 3:7-16; 4:3-5).
There is the darkness of deception and ignorance. This is where man can’t see into the spiritual through the fleshly clouds of the flesh and the world, because the eyes of faith are missing. To them their deception is truth and their ignorance is a form of light that is confirming their reality.
This is why I look to the clouds to discern the mood of the day to prepare for the day. Jesus talked about a wicked generation that simply sought signs for entertainment but not to discern the times to be ready for His visitation (Matthew 12:38-39). When I look above it is not to seek a sign but to discern the season that we are in.
There are five physical forms of clouds that vary in their presentation, making each cloud unique. The number “five” points to grace and these five forms of clouds remind me that everything we have is because of God’s grace. Mankind may fall into distinct categories, but like the clouds, each person is unique and different.
The five forms of clouds are stratiform sheets, cirriform wisps and patches, stratocumuli forms (patches, rolls, and ripples), cumuliform (heaps), and cumulonimbi towers. As you consider the form of each cloud, you can see how they vary in depth and presentation. Some can be thin, others can prove to have layers, while some may reveal such heights that you realize the depths they could reach if they decided to settle down on the terrain. The depth could be all consuming.
The sheets of clouds point to the fact that people are often like onions that have various layers. Depending on their years, maturity, and choices will determine the amount and extent of layers. The heights of clouds point to the degree of character that a person can have; after all, the height of the cloud reminds us that it was formed or established that way. Character is the one thing that is formed in us and will establish the type of person we become in the end.
The moods clouds set often comes down to their color, the way they move, and their presentation. For example, some clouds carry a type of formidable darkness with them that implies a storm is coming at you. Every type of cloud can possess darkness. The truth is every person bears darkness in his own soul due to the fallen disposition. Just because a cloud bears darkness does not mean it will produce anything that is beneficial. You cannot be certain if such a cloud will drop precipitation and if it does, how long it will last. But you know you better expect the unexpected and be ready to seek cover.
In 2 Peter 1:14-22, the apostle talks about those who forsake the right way and go astray such as Balaam. The reason they go the wrong way is because they love the wages of unrighteousness. Peter referred to such individuals as wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest towards the midst of darkness that is reserved forever for such people. These individuals may say all the right religious things, but they are polluted and it would have been better if they had never known the truth than turn back to their vomit.
The wind points to the spirit and the water to man’s philosophy and doctrine. As believers we are not to be carried by the different winds of the age or the philosophies of the world but by the Spirit of the Living God, the truth of God’s Word, and the pure doctrine of Christ (Ephesians 4:14; Colossians 2:8). It is important to point out God directs the cloud, and He directs our lives as well with circumstances, challenges, and His Spirit.
Dark, greyish clouds that possess precipitation are called “nimbostratus.” They remind me of those individuals who possess shades of uncertain grey as far as their attitude and can become dark in their responses. They are stiff-necked and often wear a scowl on their face, their jaw set like steel, their eyes cold and at times narrow, and their countenance dark, revealing that they are posed for battle, ready for conflict, and set for war. They are prepared at any time to call some tribunal into session to dump accusations on “unsuspecting culprits” as a means to excuse themselves from being civil, reasonable, and agreeable. They refuse to consider godly submission to what is excellent, will not come into agreement with what is honorable, and be obedient to what is right.
These people are set on having life on their terms and the result is that they know very little about peace. To them peace is when everything is lining up to their way of thinking, placating their feelings, and giving way to their foolish notions. Their reward is that they can prove to be pleasant when all things are right in their world, reasonable when everything has come into agreement with them, and even nice when they feel good about themselves. However, they often leave a bad taste in other people’s mouths, cause the environment to become unsettled, and will cause people to walk lightly because they do not know how long their monster of selfish arrogance will be kept at bay.
Now I direct you to the opposite type of cloud, the scattered, thin clouds, cirriform wisp and patches. The first clouds mentioned are clouds with great potential but move off course. The second type of cloud can be ominous because they are carrying precipitation with them, but the next clouds are thin and in places transparent. They are like individuals who are thin-skinned due to possessing very little character and having fragile egos. These individuals want to simply float through life without any real disturbance.
Such individuals remind me of King Saul who hid from his calling, wanting to be popular with the men more than obedient to God, willing to compromise if it served his purpose, and was ready to be compliant upon paying the consequences, but never coming to a place of real repentance and brokenness before God. In the end he died a jealous, tormented, desperate fool.
However, clouds are moved by the winds of time and those who are thin and fleeting will become like vapors that will eventually cease to be or become consumed by other formations because they have no substance. No matter how some try to maintain their fragile reality, they must come face to face with the daunting challenges of the times they live in. Their legacy will either become insignificant, consumed, or they will find themselves becoming dark with bitterness and despair as they are carried along by that which is established or proves greater.
The next type of cloud can be compared to the clouds that are thicker patches that possess some depth to them. For the most part they know how to roll with the punches and ripple effects of changes and challenges and keep their wits about them. The problem with these people is that, like Peter on the night of Jesus’ arrest, they suddenly become aware that they are limited by their high opinion about their own strength to maintain personal convictions.
Passion and causes often drive these people. In many ways they are an island unto themselves as to their abilities to maintain their own convictions. However, when their strength is taken from them due to a major crisis, their passions can turn into fear, their causes can become foolish to them, and their abilities putty in their hands. Like Peter, they may possess zeal but they are blinded to the fact they have not yet been fully converted to the ways of righteousness (Luke 22:31-34; Romans 10:2-4).
We come to the clouds that prove to be towers. Towers are like Abraham who believed God and endured until the promised son, Isaac was brought forth. They are like Moses, who in his great weakness became a faithful servant to God that led the people to the Promised Land, and of King David, who in the prime of his youth, faced a giant, standing strong on who God is. We have the Apostle Paul who in his great failure was given a great call that turned the whole upside-down, and the world of the Gentiles, right-side up.
Spiritual towers will leave great impressions behind. They might tear up the turf like Peter, disturb the spiritual climate like Paul, unsettle the world’s systems like Moses, take the sword to pagan kings like Samuel, establish a testimony that creates great mockery from the unbelieving as Noah did with the ark, and enter the glories of heaven in a chariot like Elijah, but they will leave a testimony. This testimony will not be about how spiritual and great they are, but how the great God, their Creator, takes empty vessels, insignificant vapors, blinded zealots, and dark misguided souls and gives them the breath of His life and fills them with His Spirit to do the impossible, making them spiritual towers of their day that brings Him glory.
Even though it is sorely needed today, I am not looking to be a tower, but I do want to be part of the great tower of witnesses that to this day can be seen, heard, and followed because of the testimony of their great God that they left behind for others, such as myself, to follow.