Sky Mercies

While in a used bookstore recently, I was going over the science titles. I like to read accessible science since I often find it approaches religious ideas in secular terms. Once in a while even the terms of these disparate disciplines coalesce. I spied a volume on the top shelf titled The Mercy of the Sky. The spine showed a purplish cloud-bank, and the very concept set me wondering. We’d just been through a bomb cyclone the day before with wind bellowing through our apartment. Many trees were down and power was out for several people I’d overheard talking that day. I stared at the spine, thinking perhaps this would be a good follow-up to Weathering the Psalms, but as I already had books in my hands, and since I’m not the tallest guy around, it seemed beyond my reach. Of course, after I left I thought more about it.

The previous day’s nor’easter had revived that sense of a storm as divine anger. Strong winds, my wife commented, are generally disturbing. They make it difficult to sleep. It’s hard to feel secure when the heavens are anything but merciful. Although the wind is easily forgotten, it’s among the most easily anthropomorphized of natural phenomena. And it’s ubiquitous. Everything on the surface of the earth is subject to it. Indeed, the atmosphere is larger than the planet itself. Is it any wonder that God has always been conceptualized as in the sky? The quality of the mercy of the sky, we might say, is strained.

Danger comes from the earth below us, the world around us, and the realm above. Like our ancient ancestors staring wonderingly into the sky, it is the last of these that’s most to be feared. The wind can’t been seen, but it can be felt. It cuts us with icy chills, drenches us with dismal rain, even flings us violently about when its anger compresses it into a tight whirl. We can’t control it. Unlike other predators it requires neither sleep to refresh nor light to see. Its rage is blind and it takes no human goodness or evil into account. After a great windstorm, the calm indeed feels like a mercy. Elijah on Mount Sinai stood before a mighty wind, tearing the land apart. It was the still, small voice, however, that captures his imagination. There’s a calm before the storm, but it is the stillness in its wake that most feels like the mercy of the sky.

2 thoughts on “Sky Mercies

  1. Hey Steve,
    I live on the 17th floor of a high rise that faces West. From our vantage point we can see weather coming from miles away, all the way to New York State on a good day. When clouds begin to roll, and the wind begins to blow, all bets are off. Windows shudder, and the building shakes on really blustery days. Every day is different. Wind comes and it goes. Weather is one of those phenomena I watch daily. Sunsets can be amazing too.

    Case in point .. A few months ago, a storm rolled through, and a microburst hit a neighborhood just a mile away, and destroyed century old trees in a park like match sticks. The wind was that ‘area specific.’ It did not come this far East, but dropped on top of a neighboring – neighborhood, just around the corner. Like the finger of God, took a physical swipe at a park and the homes surrounding it. We never underestimate the wind here.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jeremy. I think it’s the lack of visibility that makes the wind so interesting. When I was writing my book I nearly forgot to include a chapter on the wind. It turned out to be one of the most interesting, I think.


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