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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Hazy Shade of Grey

The last couple of days the temperatures have been in the mid-to-high 30s. There have reportedly been over 60 bushfires raging across New South Wales (NSW). The weather was in the 30s today and normally that would mean blue skies and bright sunshine but today there was a grey haze that seemed to increase as the day went on.

By 4pm today there was only a sliver of blue sky as the haze from bushfires over 100km away was taking over the landscape. My kids were playing in the pool after school but at 4.30pm we took them out because, as well as the grey haze and the increasingly strong smell of fire there was also the prospect of a storm. Then, in what is a first for me in my 8 years in Australia, the daylight outside turned to a dull yellow colour and soon it was like dusk. The storm didn't eventuate except for a few flashes of lightning and a couple of peals of thunder.

Later as I sat with my 2 oldest sons watching TV we noticed the room get brighter as the haze began to be slowly blown away. Then we saw a beautiful red sun framed brilliantly against the grey skyline. All in all it was a strange and beautiful day in many respects. When my wife went out after 6pm after the threat of a storm had passed she decided to clean the pool. In the pool she found ash. What a day. We are very fortunate to live near the lake and a long way from fire danger and I am only too aware of those people whose homes are threatened and the many, many firefighters who, even now, are fighting the fires and risking their lives in the process.

Without wanting to trivialise what is a very difficult day for many people in NSW by reducing the day to a pithy anecdote the scene this evening did cause me to ponder about the changing nature of life and how light and darkness co-exist and pass around us intermingled at times. Those who have followed my blog will be aware of my struggle to come to terms with and live with and through mental illness. This evening, when I saw the bright red sun illuminated in its stark contrast to the thick grey haze, I realised that in the midst of the "greyness" that life so often brings the sun can still stand out as a beacon of hope.

Today I became very aware of the haze. As it thickened it took my attention until I found myself surprised at driving around a bend in the road and spying a swathe of blue sky. It is easy for us to become so aware of the shades of grey that we forget that there is a blue sky of promise. The blue sky promises light and warmth. It is interesting how the sight of that blue sky lifted my spirits today. As the haze gradually cleared one could sense a palpable sense of relief as if we had been blanketed in a depressive weather trough.

Depression is a reality for many people; it is a reality for many Christians. Denying it or confessing joy does not banish the grey haze that can envelop the sky above us. In the midst of depression God remains with us. Our heavenly father does not retreat when circumstances change and often he will offer us a glimpse of blue sky as an indicator of hope to come. Christian hope is not wishing; it can be a sense of longing for an otherness that will transform our current reality but it can never be divorced from that reality.

Sometimes a red sun will appear. There is no break in the cloud and the smell of burning fire is thick in the air with its concomitant emotions of fear and uncertainty. The red sun can be a sign of victory; despite the best efforts of the fire the sun cannot be vanquished. Even more so, the sun will take the grey cloud as a backdrop with which to reflect its splendour in even brighter array than normal. Yes, there is hope, but it comes in subtle ways and often arises from out of darkness.

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