This summer my husband, Scott, and I have taken a profound interest in clouds. We’ve had the most stunning skies this year. Beautiful puffy, fluffy, billowy, white clouds or cottony swishes splashed across the sky that reflect brilliant sunbeams behind and around them. And at dusk—oh my!—the colors are magnificent. Magentas, ambers, baby blues, pinks, burgundies, silvers. Breathtaking. It’s as if the angels grabbed a box of Crayolas and decorated the heavens. I’ve often noted that the sky looks like giant bowls of sherbet or dreamsicle ice cream (but that could be my ever-dieting, sugar-starved brain taking over).
Almost every evening, Scott and I walk outside, point to the sky, and ooh and aah. Like five-year-olds we identify flying dragons and Irish Setters wearing party hats. My favorite was the walrus playing a trumpet.
If this summer’s cloud offerings have reminded me of anything, it’s that every day I get up and the clouds are brand new again. New shapes and colors for me to enjoy and appreciate (even the gray, dull, drearily blanketed ones). Don’t like today’s clouds? No biggie. Tomorrow will offer a plethora of new choices. No need even to wait for tomorrow. Just wait a few minutes and the sky will change.
Interestingly, in the midst of the change is a permanence. Every morning, the sun comes up in the east. Every night, the sun sets in the west and the moon appears. Every day, a smattering of clouds cover the sky. It’s guaranteed. Apparently, in the midst of great creativity, God loves routine. Just as when I was five and my father would twirl me round and round, and dizzily, I’d exclaim, “Do it again!” God loves to “do it again!” and again and again.
Looking at clouds, it really hit me: God isn’t a God of second chances. Woe to us if he were. God is a God of infinite chances. Just as those clouds change and reform, God’s grace toward us is new every day, every minute. Different amounts and shapes and colors, to be sure. But always there, renewing and routine. Something we can count on.
So if I mess up and say something rude to my husband (not that that ever happens), and I loathe myself for doing it but then turn right around and do it again the next day and the next, God is there to forgive me and help me to grow stronger and more mature. The next day, and the next day, and the next. Maybe that’s why we’re here for a lifetime—because it takes that much routine for us to be transformed into the image of Jesus.
And when we need grace, thank God we don’t have to wait for a second time around. Thank God we don’t even have to wait for the next day. We have grace right then—the kind and amount and shape and color we need for that specific thing. Guaranteed.
I don’t know about you, but too many times I’ve beaten myself up over some mean or stupid thing I’ve done. And I’ve wondered, How much grace does God really have for me? At what point is he going to draw the line and say, “Nope. No more for Ginger. She hasn’t learned the lesson the past 5.3 million times, so I’m finished forgiving her”? But then I can look up at the clouds and gain a renewed sense of hope. Because even as the clouds are “doing it again!” so our God says to us, “Let me do it again. Here’s my mercy and grace and forgiveness for you again.” And again and again.
So last night as Scott and I stood outside and observed the clouds, within a matter of minutes, I watched my flying dragon change into an oversized squawking goose, and the Irish Setter’s hat morphed into a pink cotton-candy-colored Elvis wig. I smiled, filled with awe at God’s abundant creativity. But mostly I smiled at the routine of it all.
The Bible puts it this way: “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23, NRSV).
I’m not sure I’ll ever look at clouds the same way. They point to a God who loves routine, who loves to creatively pour out grace on us whenever we need it, whose faithfulness is as certain to us as the sky. And most of all, they point to a God of infinite chances.