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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Mercy in the Clouds

A few days ago we were hiking in Switzerland, in the clouds.  Our trek from Meiringen-Grindelwald-Wengen-Murren-Griesalp-Kanderweg involved some rainy days, and periods where we ascended into the mist.  There were also times when we came around a bend, the clouds parted, and we saw brilliant blue backgrounds to glacier-covered peaks; but much of those days involved a misty veil.  The most challenging day as we hiked over a high Alpen pass, in the snow, searching for signs of the trail (which is marked by painting rocks on the ground, so loses some value when there is an unexpected accumulation), I thought about the mercy of being in the clouds.  You can't see how far there is to go, how high you are, or what dangers await at the bottom of ravines.  You can only see the trail a few meters ahead or behind.  The cloud surrounds you and enforces a focus on the here and now, the next step.  On that day it was a blessing, because our destination would have seemed impossibly high and distant, and the narrow trail would have seemed impossibly dangerous.  The steep ascent and descent were a bit frightening, particularly the last hundred meters or so below the pass when we completely lost the trail and didn't know if we should turn back.

The next day, we heard from Scott's mother that his dad's long slow decline from dementia and bleeding strokes had taken a more accelerated turn downward.  He had stopped eating and drinking completely.  Scott's sister had graciously spent a week in town but had left, and we sensed it was time for us to go.  We began making arrangements to change our tickets and cancel the rest of our trek to Zermatt.  In less than 24 hours we were on our way to California, arriving Friday afternoon uncertain if he would have died during our long air flight.  We went straight to the nursing home (where he has been since Scott's last trip in the Spring, when he and his mom had decided she could no longer meet his needs even with the in-home help. . . we are thankful for the excellent care the home and the hospice nurses have provided for him). That was a sweet couple of hours.  Though Dave's disease is very advanced, that afternoon he responded meaningfully and emotionally to Scott's presence.  And now as we continue going back and forth over the weekend, reading Psalms, holding hands, expressing thanks, telling stories, he is slipping away from us.

Then this morning, as we went to church, the passage was from Exodus 16 about God's provision of mana for the grumbling, anxious, can't-see-how-this-is-good Israelites.  In that chapter the phrase occurs "they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud."  We want the cool clarity of the peaks of God's greatness, or the lush valley of the still waters and green pastures. But the presence of God in the Bible often comes as a cloud, as a rainbow of refracted and diffused light, a paradox of obscurity and vision, of leading and covering.

Today we can see some mercy in that cloudiness.  I think we are glad we had the first half of our anniversary trek without knowing we'd leave before the end.  That we focused day to day rather than knowing that loss was so imminent.  That when the time to leave came, it was clear, and we really couldn't know what we left behind either.  That now we are in California, we're also living hour to hour, on a time line we can't fully determine.

Faith comes when you're in the clouds, searching for the path.  Waiting for the mana that is just enough for one day, no more.

Thanks to many who have prayed and offered their love; please ask the One who holds us all to gently escort Dave into eternity.  And to give stamina and faith to his family as we watch and wait.


Jill said...

Such a holy time. I'm thankful with you that you were able to be here for your dad and mom. I have been through this with my dad and I am thinking of you and praying for all of you.

Phyllis Masso said...

I am praying for you during this sad and difficult time and am glad for your strong marriage. Remembering, Jon's going to be with the Lord occurred as Michael and Karen were celebrating an anniversary, too, and you were with us.