From the Goldfields
Goldfields God-Talk: Mist
The Revd Dr Elizabeth J Smith AM, Mission Priest, Parish of The Goldfields
It doesn’t happen often, in this warm, dry climate, but sometimes, on a cold winter’s day when there is extra moisture in the air, I wake up to a foggy morning. Everything is shrouded in light mist.
Walking in the bush, I can barely see the treetops. Shrubs and grasses show how many spiders live there, usually unobserved, as the mist condenses on the fine webs everywhere. I see this same landscape many times each week, but in the mist it is like a foreign country. Colours are muted. Shapes and textures are softened. The air is damp on my face. The birds are huddled in their nests and tree hollows, waiting for the sun to burn off the fog and the blue desert sky to show its face.
In the story of my Christian faith, I never had a classic conversion experience. First taken to church as a tiny baby by my faithful parents, I grew up with a deep familiarity with the church, its people, its buildings, its Bible, its patterns of Sunday worship, its simple rituals, its songs and silences. Over the years, of course, there have been bright spots: moments when the light of Christ has surprised and delighted me, and given me a good shove in the direction God has wanted me to go. We often pray for light on our path, as a metaphor for discerning God’s will, and it is a good prayer.
But sudden light is not the only way the Spirit catches my attention. Sometimes a softening, a darkening, a loss of clarity creates a new way of seeing. Like the fog that dampens the daylight, it gets me to take notice of something previously invisible, like those mist-spangled spider webs: perhaps a friendship waiting to be grown, or a curiosity waiting to be explored.
A time of sickness and recovery casts a shadow but gives me time for introspection: time to notice what I am most missing being able to do. When that shadow lifts, I go back to work with better focus and more joy.
Another kind of fog can descend in a low time, a slow time, when nothing comes easily in work or prayer. Some spiritual landmarks stand out, and others recede. An old habit feels stale; an old pleasure no longer delights. My soul’s usual cheerful songs go quiet in the cold air of these times. This is a time to walk more slowly, more tentatively, with less brashness, and to wait for the gift of warmth to come back in God’s good time. Meanwhile, I will welcome this grey time as a gift for softening my spirit, rather treating it as an insult to my common confidence.
God uses all kinds of spiritual weather events to bless us and teach us. Nothing comes permanently between us and the sunshine of God’s loving smile. But a misty spiritual moment can remind us of just how much we rely on and yearn for that steadfast compassion.