Chapter 5: The Cloud
“Though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of oppression, yet your Teacher will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will [constantly] see your Teacher. Your ears will hear a word behind you, “This is the way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right or to the left.” Isaiah 30:20-21
If you’re reading this and you attend Calvary, you probably love to hike and camp. It seems to be a defining feature of the people at Calvary, or maybe it’s the defining feature of people who live in Alberta and I’m just the odd man out. It’s not that I don’t like hiking (it’s fine, I guess) or that I don’t like to camp (socially), but I don’t know that I’d mark it down as a hobby. And let me tell you, my 12 years of life at Calvary tells me that a good number of you would.
I remember one of my first hikes being more mentally tough than physically difficult. It started out like a usual hike, just mild switchbacks, until soon we were hiking at more of an incline. But it bothered me that I had no clue where I was going or how long it was going to take. Where were the hardest spots? What if I couldn’t climb them? Sure, I had someone leading me, but the fact that I didn’t feel prepared for what I would encounter was unnerving to me. All the hiking was fine, but when would we make it to the mountaintop and the stunning view I was promised?
Now all you experienced hikers out there are probably rolling your eyes and thinking that I totally missed the point. It’s all about the challenge! Right? But what can I say….I like to prepare! I like to mentally map out my obstacles, figure out whether or not I can tackle them and then jump right in….not the other way around. I can’t say I love being in a place of unknowing.
In this chapter, KJ Ramsey talks about “the cloud”– a place of adversity, of suffering, of pain or unknowing. It’s lonely in there. With no view of the outside, and no idea how long you’ll be in there, it’s pretty easy to start believing that God’s waiting on the other side of that cloud in the sunshine. So we push past our feelings, and our grief, and we make a plan so we can feel like we are in control and we try to get out of that cloud as fast as we can.
“God is not on the other side of our suffering, he is in it. The invisible God is closer to us than we are to ourselves.” (KJ Ramsey, This Too Shall Last)
But what if there is more to suffering than just “getting over it”? What if pain is about more than pushing through and making it to the other side? What if this is the place we are transformed? Those of you who love to hike have probably already been putting this into practice without even thinking about it. The challenge of the hike itself is where all the memories are made, where all the conversations happen, where the mental and physical determination grows and strengthens. I think we’ve been under a false impression that the view is the whole point. After all, we don’t see many selfies of people sweaty, dirty and complaining on the trail do we?
And so this is where we find ourselves, both as people in the midst of a pandemic and a church, broken and hurting. We are a crew of dirty, sweaty, hungry people on the trail. All I know is the only thing keeping me going is the promise that my Teacher is here, and that he’ll handle the directions on this hike. I’m trying to get comfortable without knowing what’s ahead, or how long it will take to get to that Instagram-worthy view.
What part of your own pain do you need to sit with face-to-face?
What do you find most difficult about the journey before “the view”?
Read “This Too Shall Last” by KJ Ramsey with us. Want to start the series from the beginning? Start here and check out our hope for this series within our Calvary community, and learn more about where you can get your copy of the book and follow along.