Clouds & Clarity


When we first moved to San Diego, we were told of the infamous Marine Layer: a thick cloud covering that daily obscures the sun and the views of an otherwise perfect city. Native or nearly-native San Diegans talked about this predictable cloud cover as if it were the blight on San Diego’s perfect weather report, the glaring B on an otherwise straight-A report card.

Having friends who brave blizzards in the Northeast or walk through tunnels to avoid the biting cold of Minnesota winters, we had a hard time not giggling at the sighs and seriousness attached to this cloud layer.

While it is no tropical storm or tornado, the Marine Layer does have a measured affect on the San Diego climate. It is quite a thing to experience.

One can wake up in the morning under a heavy fog, much like the light-canceling curtains hung in a baby’s nursery. The air is thick and cold, the sun is obscured and it can be difficult to see beyond one’s immediate vicinity. Then, as if God has decided to roll up the blinds of His cosmic window into San Diego, the layer begins to lift, revealing with brilliant clarity the sun and surroundings.

The change is drastic and welcomed until evening when the Marine Layer rolls back down, bringing its fog and obscuring effects.

Watching the Marine Layer and experiencing its affects have given me a beautiful picture of what often happens in my life spiritually and emotionally.

There are Marine Layers in each of our lives. Sometimes they are circumstantial, attached to a particular sickness or a situation like the death of a loved one or unemployment or infertility or singleness or a challenging relationship. Other times, they are irrational and feel as inexplicable as they are palpable. Often, as is the case for me, marine layers can be the result of the monotony of normal life, the compounding busyness and demands that life often piles up upon us.

Either way, they share common characteristics. These thick layers of heaviness and fog obscure light and warmth and blind us to everything except that which is directly before us. We are unable to see the forest, we can only see the trees. Life in a marine layer can feel damp and cold and gloomy.

Then, in moments when you least expect it, a magical thing happens. The marine layer lifts, allowing rays of hope and expectation and joy to break through, revealing the greater scenery surrounding you. When the clouds lift, life is put into perspective and you can see, albeit briefly, a clear glimpse of the grand story God is writing in the world in and around you and your loved ones.
I treasure these moments as much as I am surprised by them. I know they are glimpses given by God for my edification and encouragement. In these time-stands-still moments, God strengthens me to go back into the throes of the cloud cover and keep on keeping on, walking by faith when I can only see what is directly before me, when things are foggy and don’t quite make sense.

When I am braving the grocery store with three tired kiddos, when I cooking another basic meal, when I am exhausted by the bedtime routine, I often cannot see past the cloud cover. When we are walking with friends through deep, deep valleys of depression or cancer or family turmoil, light is obscured by cloud cover.

But then in an unexpected conversation with an inquisitive little son that gives me a window into his little heart or in a friends’ gratitude for the little provisions while the rest of life seems to be unraveling, the Marine Layer lifts for a moment. I remember why I parent and why we walk through the ups and downs of marriage, I remember that there is great cause to hope.

I remember that there is Someone behind that cloud cover, One whom even the winds and waves obey. And that Someone is working a masterpiece behind the curtains of clouds that obscure our view of Him and His ways.

He is gracious to pull back the Marine Layers in our lives from time to time, but, at least for now, the clouds will roll back in. The moments of clarity will be scattered. These moments are meant to be little tastes of the coming day, just enough to keep us walking by faith through the heavy cloud cover.

But our ultimate hope is that, soon and very soon, Our King will roll up the cloud cover forever.

When God rolled back the curtain to allow John a glimpse behind the scenes of what is seen, John saw that coming day of clarity. In Revelation, he describes this permanent lifting of the Marine Layer:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth…and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people and God Himself shall be among them and He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning or crying or pain, the first things have passed away. And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ (Revelation 21).”

Whether you are currently stuck in a stubborn marine layer or you are enjoying an all-too-fleeting moment of clarity and warmth, be encouraged to know that we won’t always traverse among the clouds. A day is coming when we will live in the crystal clarity of God’s grace and love. Until then, may we point each other to trustworthy promises of the One behind the cloud cover.

“For we know in part and prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial shall be done away with….For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I have also been fully known. But now faith, hope and love, abide these three: but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:9-10, 12).”

2 thoughts on “Clouds & Clarity

  1. Pingback: Credo Magazine » Credo’s Cache

  2. thephelanpham

    Wowzers. I love this! Thank you for walking through my marine layers of depression and having hope for me when I didn’t. And for reminding me of the Someone behind the cloud cover! xoxo


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