Silent, stealthy and insidious. Once it starts forming very little can stop it. It grows, it spreads and it covers.
Growing up on a dairy farm in southern Victoria, fog was an ever present part of the seasons and I still have memories of either seeing the fog filtering through the lights of our ‘milking shed’ as you walked the cattle into the yard early in the morning, or the dazzling display of patterns and colours that the sun created as it crested the horizon and the morning light combined with the fog to create an idyllic scene of rural bliss. Beautiful.
These past few weeks, as I travel early each day on the road, fog warnings have been appearing with regularity on my WAZE traffic app. Some days I have been early enough to even be the one who is making the first report of the day and logging in the fog location into the community built ‘live report’ function: the function that makes WAZE so popular with those who travel by road a lot. Safety first.
And as we know, there is nothing we can do about the fog. But in the case of WAZE, we log it as a warning: be careful, take care, avoid it if you can and if you can’t; slow down, eyes ahead and navigate with caution because you will make it through. The fog will end. Blue sky will return.
Fog doesn’t last forever. We have to wait, but our wait is always rewarded because the sunshine, the breeze, the passage of time through the day always lifts the fog; the atmosphere will change. Fog is a result of natural circumstances and conditions, that whilst beyond our control, we do not need though to let it incapacitate us. We move ahead; with caution and care.
Fog exists in other places too. In our relationships, in our minds, in our workplaces and yes, in our churches.
It is just as silent, just as stealthy and certainly just as insidious.
It is the fog of rumour, of whispers in the dark and out the side of mouths, fabricated fables and outright lies. Human nature has a tendency to default to some low baseline behaviours and one of them is to undermine, undercut and pulldown. To speak with authority on matters outside our knowledge base, to use conversations to plant seeds of discontent and to manipulate truth for selfish outcomes.
As I write this, I think of the ‘VeggieTales’ episode about ‘Larry Boy and the Rumour Weed’ (a classic!) and how in the end, it took truth, compassion and positive shared community intent to overcome the impact of falsehood. Proverbs 12:18 reminds us that our words can build up or tear down down, they can cut or can heal; or in my language, create fog or reveal blue skies.
The choice of what to do with our words, whilst simple, is not easy, because we all exist inside a bubble of self-interest; a bubble that we must face each morning as we approach the new day; seeking to be His hands and feet.
My goal this week has not just been to simply navigate the literal fog each day, but to also let it remind me that I must not be a creator of relational fog. I, we, you, have the ability to follow through on this: in our personal lives, in our work lives, in our church lives and very importantly, in our minds.
What does that look like?
Seeking truth, not replenishing rumours. Conversing with those that know, not those that pretend to know. Speaking in person, having courageous conversations that balance vulnerability with integrity and trust. Understanding that there is NEVER a better approach than a courteous conversation to add clarity, resolve confusion or find common ground.
Find clarity and blue skies.
This word of encouragement for Christian educators was written by Dean Bennetts, and distributed in The Bridge newsletter in 2023. Dean is the CEO of Adventist Education in North New South Wales, Australia.