Psalm 19 begins, “The heavens declare the glory of God/ and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.” These words naturally come to mind when I witness a beautiful sunset, a rainbow after a rainstorm, shafts of light bursting through darkened clouds on the horizon, and a gorgeous sunrise to welcome the new day. It never ceases to fill me with awe and wonder. My mother told me once, “God has an amazing paintbrush,” noting the combinations of rich color and diverse cloud formations. I have always agreed.
Having grown up in a commercialized environment that did not have much natural beauty to be experienced on a daily basis, there was always the wonder of the sky and the clouds to take me away from the less-than-appealing earthiness around me. It was a natural activity for me to see shapes in the clouds—a dog, a dragon, a face—and to watch them transform into other shapes as the winds aloft pushed them along at varying speeds. There never seemed to be an end to the different appearances of clouds. Some were wispy, some were fluffy, some made patterns that looked like fish scales, and some look like a volcanic plume rising.
During college I became more familiar with the wonders of the night sky and being able to see more than one or two constellations. Walking the paths of the school’s golf course and away from the abundant city and campus light fixtures, the darkness above glowed with flickers of light originating from millions of miles away. For a city girl, this was a precious and spiritual experience.
For so much of my early life God seemed so far away, “up there” somewhere. While I believed that God knew whether I said my prayers correctly or not, I didn’t have a sense of God being present or even nearby. My image of God resembled a picture from a book called Little Stories About God where God, looking like an angry old man, points the way to the exit of the Garden of Eden for Adam and Eve after having sinned. It took a long while for this image of God to be replaced by deeper and more meaningful ones based on experience and religious studies.
Now, when I look up in the sky, I see the awesomeness of God’s love that is bigger and more powerful than anything we human beings can manipulate or destroy. Yet, I am also aware of God’s gentle whispers that ride along on springtime breezes. I am encouraged by the resilience of nature witnessing to the holiness of life in all its forms. My anxieties are soothed in remembering that “all shall be made well” because it is God who shall make it so. I am thankful for sunshine and for rain, for light and for darkness, for warmth and for cold and for all the ways that God nurtures us, provides for us, and protects us (mostly from ourselves). It is all a gift. Blessed be God forever!
By Sister Therese Haydel, OSB