A new year with expectations. Good intentions I outgrew. I do lose more with the years. That’s why I wonder where God has gone in the new year. After all, many churches were closed at Christmas. And our society is on the run. Where is God when we flee from corona? Fortunately we always have God with us. In the cloud.
At the beginning of 2021 we all feel like refugees from the pandemic. We are all a bit like Tintin and his dog Bobbie. Ideally, we would like to hide from that terrible monster from China (honour to whom honour is due: I have the equation from Trump). How can we protect ourselves against the Covid 19 virus? Where can we really hide? And of course we are not allowed to compare ourselves here in the Netherlands with refugees in Moria on Lesbos. They don’t have any hiding places anymore. Therefore: support for refugees remains urgently needed. But our feelings of fear and insecurity are not wrong either. Maybe the great Secret of Life, God, can help us.
How can it help us? That is what I learned from the Jewish tradition. When the Jewish people were fleeing from the Pharaoh of Egypt, God went ahead of them in the desert. God was present in the cloud that blew out for them. The cloud sent them in the right direction, to the promised land. When they no longer saw it and set up camp, the cloud also stood still. And when the cloud moved on, they followed the cloud. The same cloud had freed them from their enemies through the Red Sea! When King Solomon wanted to consecrate the temple, a cloud floated into the building (1 Kings 8). That was the sign: God had entered the building.
With an Indian tribe from North America I found an intriguing story of how important clouds are to become human. The cloud is not only a source of life for plants and animals (rain). Man is also born out of a cloud there. (Read story below).
God must love the Netherlands, because our clouds are magnificent. My strolls are often ventilated and decorated by beautiful clouds. Clouds can tell what lives in our subconscious. Just look at their shapes. Everyone sees something different in them. It is a wonderful child’s play: tell what you see in the cloud.
Artist Berndnaut Smilde creates clouds. Just like the great Creator, he creates clouds in buildings, palaces and churches. Especially now that so many church buildings are empty, that’s a breathtaking sight. The clouds are sometimes colored or give light.
Berndnaut Smilde (1978) lives and works in Amsterdam. He creates experiences. Like this cloud in the church of Sankt Peter. He also takes big pictures of it. In several large museums his work has been and still is on display. Berndnaut Smilde called his photo Nimbus, a thunderstorm cloud. But Nimbus is also the halo around the head of a saint. Apparently the cloud is both ominous and sacred. What we know as ‘mysterium tremendum et fascinans’. Whoever experiences God feels both an astonishment (it fascinates) and deep awe (it frightens). That is also how I look at this photo. The church is as good as empty, but the cloud evokes that there is much more.
For our uncertain situation in the Netherlands I hope that the vaccines can do their job. So that I can become more social and mobile again. But most of all I wish that we can be in the clouds again in the coming year. It does require ample bandwidth and an open connection on our part, because otherwise you won’t get in touch with the cloud.
Because in the Netherlands we are blessed with so many clouds.
High up in the mountains lived a young woman. She was very beautiful and had many suitors, but she never married anyone. One day she made mats out of reed. Tired she fell asleep. There came rain and a drop fell on her navel.
And she had twin babies, and all the men claimed them, but when the babies were old enough to crawl, she told all the plaintiffs to come in a circle, and she would put the babies in the middle, and if they would crawl to a man, he would surely be the father. But the babies didn’t climb on anyone, and she never married.
And when these twin boys were old, their mother showed them a cloud in the east and said, “That’s your father, and his name is Cloud, and the Wind is your uncle, your father’s older brother”. But the children didn’t pay attention, but as they got older they asked their mother if they could go to their father. And their mother let them go.
And they went, and came to a house, and the man who lived there asked them where they were going, and they said they were looking for their father, whose name was Cloud. And the man pointed to the next house, and said, “That man, there, is your father.”
And they went to that man, but he said, “It’s not like that. He’s your father. He’s Cloud,” and they sent them back. But the first guy sent them back to the second guy, who was actually Cloud.
And then the Cloud said: ‘I wonder if it’s true that you are my children!
And the boys said, “That’s what they say”.
And Cloud said, “I want you to do something to prove it”.
Then the oldest boy thundered loudly and got color, and Cloud said, “It’s true, you’re my children!”
And for the night, Cloud gave them food. But then his tears came. He was crying and left the children outside. And it rained and snowed all night, but they stayed outside.
And in the morning, Cloud came out and said, “You really are my children”.
And the next night he took them to a pond, where there was ice, and left them all there. And the next day, when he got there and found that they had been lying in the water all night, he said, “It really is – you are my children”.
So Cloud recognized them for his children and took them in his wake. And after a while the boys wanted to go back to their mother and Cloud said: ‘You can go, but you can’t talk to anyone on the way. And I’ll be with you on the journey.’
So the boys started, and there was a cloud above them, in the sky, shadowing them. And after a while they saw a man coming, and the younger boy said: “We have to ask him how our mother is doing”. But the older brother said, “Don’t you remember that our father told us not to talk to anyone?
The younger brother said, “Yes, I remember, but it wouldn’t be right not to ask how our mother is doing. So when the man came, the boy asked: “How is everyone at home, and how is the old woman, our mother?
And then the cloud above them lightened and thundered, and they were both turned into centuries-old plants.