I don’t know about you, but for many years, I lived in a household of the missing, disappearing umbrella. I would buy them and they would vanish. I blamed my children and their friends. However, we also seemed to acquire umbrellas that were broken, ripped and didn’t deserve to be called an umbrella. They turned inside out at the whisper of a breeze or created havoc when opened. It was often a puzzle to me how I acquired a bucket of useless umbrellas.
A few years ago I bought an umbrella that no self respecting young adult would be seen dead using and told my household that this umbrella was for my use only. It was expensive and its tag told me proudly that it was indestructible. Somewhat miraculously, this umbrella has been my faithful companion for a few wet and windy seasons.
Last week I was sitting on the light rail traveling to a conference. The windows were fogged up, it was drizzling and I had my umbrella ready to dash between the station and the convention centre. I was praying for family and friends who are serving the Lord around the world.
A young woman sat next to me. She looked a little agitated and then told the world at large that she had left her umbrella at home. We both looked out the window and silently agreed that this was a bad mistake.
As I prayed warm and loving prayers for my neighbours in foreign lands, it occurred to me that I could love my neighbour sitting there right next to me. I could give her my umbrella. However, an inner voice countered this idea: “no I don’t want to give her my umbrella”. There began a mental debate in which I firmly resisted any idea of giving this umbrella away to anyone. I did not want to part with it.
On reflection, and, I am ashamed it was no quick reflection, I thought about the gift of my friend to me of a conference ticket. I then thought about Jesus and how he freely and lovingly gave up His life for me.
Finally, I turned to the young woman, took my umbrella and said “here, you can have my umbrella”. Her response took me by surprise. She burst into tears and assured me she didn’t need it as she was going to a conference right by her station. Turned out we were going to the same place. This woman was moved by a stranger’s kindness. It was a small gesture, but I nearly didn’t make it.
We laughingly shared my umbrella from the light rail station to the stadium and gave each other a huge hug. Then she disappeared into the sea of 8,000 women and a mass of umbrellas. What a sliding door moment. Opportunities to love are there but they are small and easy to miss. More than this, I had no idea how much I wanted to cling to something like my umbrella. One thing I know for sure, that umbrella is not going with me to heaven.