One day, many years ago, my boys and I were lying on our backs in the yard watching the clouds drift by. “Dad,” one child asked, “why do clouds float?”
“Well, son,” I began, intending to give him the benefit of my knowledge, but then I lapsed into silence. I realized he had asked one of those questions for which you have an answer until you’re asked. “I don’t know,” I admitted, “but I’ll find out for you.”
The scientific answer, I discovered, is that condensed moisture, descending by gravity, meets warmer temperatures rising from the land, that dissipate the moisture into vapor, the tendency of which is to ascend because it is lighter than the surrounding air. That’s a natural explanation for the phenomenon.
But natural explanations are penultimate answers; “grace perfects nature,” as medieval theologians used to say: “We see things more clearly when we see their ultimate origin.” Clouds float because God, in kind hearted wisdom has ordered the natural laws in such a way that they reveal the “awesome works of Him who is perfect in knowledge” (Job 37:16b). Clouds, then, become a kind of sacrament—an outward and visible sign of God’s goodness and grace.
So, when you‘re making castles in the sky remember that the one who made all things beautiful makes the clouds float through the air. He does so to call us to wonder and adoration.
“O LORD, how manifold are your works! in wisdom you have made them all: the earth is full of your riches” (Psalms 104:24).
Afterthought: I’m reminded of a story I read years ago about nineteenth century English writer Harriet Martineau who was something of an atheist. One day, reveling in the beauty of an autumn morning she burst out, “Oh, I’m so grateful!”—to which her believing companion replied, “Grateful to whom, my dear?”