Both Sides Now
by Joni Mitchell
Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way
But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s cloud’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all
But now old friends they’re acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living every day.
I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all…
Have you ever thought that if you just prayed, listened to God and obeyed, everything would go smoothly for you? That all your clouds would be “ice cream castles in the air” and so much “angel hair”? In my past I had Christian leaders I submitted to because they taught me that if I just obeyed everything they commanded, everything would turn out just fine in my life. Yet, I can look back now and see the many shipwrecked lives of those who submitted to these leaders without question. Only God is worthy of such devotion and He has given us His Spirit to lead us into all truth. The rest springs from idolatry. This is what John was warning the church about when he wrote:
I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him. (1John 2:26-27, ESV2011)
I must have put this “formula for success,” following men instead of the Spirit, over on my relationship with God along the way. But as I have grown older He has been teaching me that obedience to Him is not always a comfortable road to follow. Often our clouds in life rain and snow on us and even block the sun, leaving us in darkness at the most inopportune times.
Do you remember the story where Jesus commanded the disciples to get into a boat and go to the other side of the lake? A great storm came up while they were out in the middle, trying to obey. The wind was blowing contrary to them and making it impossible to go where Jesus told them to.
Immediately he made [constrained] the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. (Matt 14:22-25, ESV2011)
About this event Oswald Chamber wrote,
We tend to think that if Jesus Christ compels us to do something and we are obedient to Him, He will lead us to great success. We should never have the thought that our dreams of success are God’s purpose for us. In fact, His purpose may be exactly the opposite. We have the idea that God is leading us toward a particular end or a desired goal, but He is not. The question of whether or not we arrive at a particular goal is of little importance, and reaching it becomes merely an episode along the way. What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end, God sees as the goal itself.
What is my vision of God’s purpose for me? Whatever it may be, His purpose is for me to depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay calm, faithful, and unconfused while in the middle of the turmoil of life, the goal of the purpose of God is being accomplished in me. God is not working toward a particular finish— His purpose is the process itself. What He desires for me is that I see “Him walking on the sea” with no shore, no success, nor goal in sight, but simply having the absolute certainty that everything is all right because I see “Him walking on the sea” (Mark 6:49). It is the process, not the outcome, that is glorifying to God. (1)
As Joni Mitchell wrote, “But now old friends they’re acting strange. They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed. Well something’s lost, but something’s gained. In living every day.” The process of His Son being worked in us is the goal as far as our Father is concerned (Hebrews 12:11), not pleasing people or even pleasing ourselves. He shows us His Son, calmly walking toward us on the raging sea of our lives, if we will just look beyond the immediate effect of the storm on our little boat. Our boat is not our salvation. Christ is! The Christian life is not all about us and our comfort zone. In fact, we must have trials and storms in our lives to get us to look to Jesus only. The goal is to get us to look beyond all the stuff of life, learn from it, and see Jesus as all that we need.
God’s purpose is to enable me to see that He can walk on the storms of my life right now. If we have a further goal in mind, we are not paying enough attention to the present time. However, if we realize that moment-by-moment obedience is the goal, then each moment as it comes is precious. (1)
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them has the light shined. (Isa 9:2, KJ2000) “God’s goal for us is not to do, but to be.” – Dorothy Clark
(1) “My Utmost for His Highest” July 27