Nature has an extraordinary habit of teaching the most powerful kind of life lessons. The life cycle of a natural storm is no exception, and provides insight for the metaphorical storms that we may face. Continuing with the “Storms” series, this piece looks at the first of three stages of the storm life cycle. Focusing on the process of cloud formation, it looks at how we may experience “cumulus” in our own lives.
Cumulus is the initial stage where clouds begin to form. At this point in the life cycle, there isn’t a storm in sight. As moist air rises, it cools to suit its environment and condenses to form a thick and fluffy white cloud. During this stage, clouds continue to form as long as warm moist air continues to rise.
I compare this process to the season where things are just simply going well. Finally, you are on the rise. You have received the promotion at work, you’re in a beautiful relationship, you’re about to buy a home, you have booked a vacation – in some way and somehow, you are on the rise. This is cumulus.
The storm at this point is somewhat unforeseen. You are on cloud 9 and basking in its blessings. Before my most recent storm, I was on the highest cloud I’ve ever experienced. Life was near perfect and every aspect was rising. Yet in my “high”, I overlooked the fact that this forming cloud is filled with moisture. Often in literature, moisture or water represents life and hope. In our lives, as our hope rises, builds up and collects it can become increasingly difficult for our environment to match it. Your hope does not always look like your circumstances. The bigger your hope is, the more faith you need to survive your reality. Before you know it, your hope begins to cool down, because even though you’re rising, your environment is not matching your hope. You’re in cumulus. You’re forming a cloud.
It is important to note that most cumulus clouds do not turn into storms. This means you can still win in many areas, clouds can form, but you somehow manage to escape major challenges and storms. There is no need to assume that because things are going well, there is a storm waiting for you. Perhaps you’re really settling into your role at work, it does not mean you’re about to get backstabbed. Just because your relationship is in the best place it has been in years, does not mean he is going to be unfaithful. Even though not all cumulus clouds become storms, all storms begin with a cumulus cloud. Therefore we shouldn’t be surprised that our biggest challenges come straight after our biggest victories.
As mentioned before, there is no rain during cumulus. In fact, everything will probably feel amazing. In nature the precipitation (i.e. the rain) is being held until the rising air can no longer support it. In our lives, I like to think the rain is being held until hope has to succumb to the environment. Hope is what is often keeping us in tact – and the moment we let go of it, for whatever reason, is when we begin to see everything shatter.
One of the basic ingredients for a storm is instability, when there is a sharp difference between the temperatures of the rising air and its surrounding environment. In the area that you are rising, what is your environment like?
Unfortunately as long as there are people involved, there is often instability. However whenever you are on the rise, look out for whom you are surrounded by. Collective success is as important as individual success. If you cannot think of ways for your team to also win, you may have to consider if you are on the right team. Otherwise, instability is almost inevitable.
The size of a storm is relative to how much moisture is in the atmosphere (i.e. the more moisture you have, the larger the storm will be). Consider how that applies in our metaphorical storms. The more we rise, the higher the risks are or the more we hope, the greater the disappointments are.
Nevertheless, when we see clouds, we need not be worried. In fact, we can gain great pleasure from admiring their beauty. However we must strive to discern when even the most beautiful things in our lives are turning dark. Sometimes, we can prevent stormy situations, but often we have to weather them. The lesson here is that it is essential to be prepared and equipped for when these days come. For some, this may mean building up your skill set in case your storm is a career change. It could mean being intentional about saving, in case your storm is a financial debt. It may mean investing in health and wellness in case your storm is an unfortunate diagnosis. For me as a Christian, it means studying scripture so I know what I can use as encouragement when circumstances shift.
As we all know, it is so much harder to buy an umbrella or stock up on provisions once it has started raining. It is not impossible to survive a storm without preparation, but it certainly means you will get wet.
Storms do come, and we cannot be in denial of them. The cumulus stage is always unassuming. However, we also cannot live in fear of the unknown. The most important thing is to prepare as much as you can before the storm hits and appreciate the season that you are in.
As you think about your “cumulus” stage, consider this.
- What is your environment like? Some storms and instability are avoidable if you are able to shift your environment.
- We must anticipate the precipitation at some point, but there is a fine balance between being prepared and remaining present.
- You do not have to go through all storms alone. I am thankful to have a husband, family and friends who I weather storms with. They also there when it’s our time to just stare at the beauty of the clouds. Who do you have in your corner and who do you need in your corner?
- As you rise, grow, and form clouds – become aware. This week a friend shared with me how crucial storms are for the process of knowing. Knowing myself, knowing God, and knowing others. This does not just start at the midst of the storm, but also during cumulus when everything is calm.
If you’re in this stage of cumulus, enjoy having no rain, revel in the beauty of your blessings and just stare at your clouds. If your storm has advanced, keep pressing on and looking forward. The amazing thing about storms is that they occur in cycles – so regardless of what it looks like, you will surely rise again.