It was very hard to avoid noticing the bizarre atmosphere created by the colours of the skies, as the remnants of hurricane Ophelia blew over the UK on 16th October, full of fine particles refracting the light. Some had fantastic orange and reddish views of the sun, while other parts of Britain saw the skies turn yellowy green. Social media, especially twitter, went mad with sentiments about the apocalyptic mood created; sending significant messages to loved ones who were not near just in case it was the end of the world as we knew it!
It did feel eerily weird. In what was the middle of day, it was so dark and oppressive; so much so the street-lights came on and the luminescence radiated like a snow-storm in ambient light – yet it was 18 degrees centigrade outside. It was easy to sympathise with the many on twitter wanting to draw close to those they loved, in the face of what felt very unnatural and disconcerting times.
I found it both re-assuring and unappreciated just how significant our instinct is, to notice when we think something is wrong or not normal. However, do we only need a bit of blue sky, a warm breeze and white fluffy clouds to think it’s all back to normal and go on our way content? Perhaps it’s only me who is easily distracted from on-suing calamity!
So, there are for me two things going on here. The first is the transient nature of my instinct: to react to the immediate, the obvious, the very concerning but then in the days and weeks to follow, how quickly do I forget and move onto the next thing?
The second is; what do I really notice and work to change? I wonder how we might react if some of the current pervading issues in our time could be presented as a sky colour or mood, to be seen or felt as easily as sandstorm or dust-cloud? What if injustice caused by inequality, whether in tax avoidance at one end of the spectrum or Universal Credit at the other could colour the hues of the skies? How apocalyptic would that seem? Or the misery of anyone who has suffered any form of sexism or racial discrimination in recent times, would those skies make us think the world was coming to an end?
The eyes to see or the ears to hear are prominent motifs both in the Old and New Testaments, to notice what God is doing, with the challenge to respond. Do we, God’s people, notice? Do we respond? Perhaps the metrological knowledge of what was happening as storm Ophelia passed by helped affirm the notion that all would be right soon and helped us fight off a natural instinct to find somewhere to hide and hope for the best! Logic and understanding may do that but it did not take away the very real sense that something was wrong and we were helpless in avoiding it.
Does that inescapable sense leave us feeling like the proverbial rabbit in the headlights, seeming as though we are stuck, unable to move, unable to change the circumstances and escape the catastrophe that is upon us? It may well be our only option is to face it and journey through until clear skies and calm weather return or the knowledge of whatever trouble it is moderates our natural instinct and lessens our action.
So I found myself asking a few ‘what if’ questions.
What if our instincts could detect the ‘atmosphere’ of the pervading nature of economic injustice, sexism or misery caused by racial hatred? Would that atmosphere bring a swifter more radical wind of change, rather than the catastrophic impact that doing nothing would bring? Would we, could we, be moved to action, if we could see more clearly how unnatural such things were?
My hope is; if we seek after loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, we will undoubtedly discover the things God wishes us to see in the world. Are then the unsung spiritual charisms of patience and persistence that which are most required from our generation and of God’s people today?
As so many faithful worshipers and witnesses have done before we look at our time and the issues facing us and believe they cannot be ignored. We draw on the encouragement that others before us have faced such immutable challenges and pressed on. Many have just celebrated the 500th year of the Reformation. Did those reformers begin by knowing the outcome of their work? No, but they did hold within themselves a knowledge and instinct that something was fundamentally wrong in their world and worked to bring all that God had placed on their hearts for Christ’s Kingdom to be more realised in their time and day.
Sometimes the best way of going forward is instinctively knowing what it is that is holding you back…and facing it.
 Deut. 29:4, Jer. 25:4, Ezek. 12:2, Matt. 13:15-16, Mark 4:9,23, Luke 14:35