God, I Need an Umbrella

Today’s post is a little different because the poem comes first.  You pretty much have to read it, even though I know some of you don’t read the poems (don’t think you’re fooling me).  Afterwards, hopefully you’ll see why.  It’s about an umbrella, and the need for shelter.

Here I Am, Lord

The ribbed black of the umbrella
is an argument for the existence of God,

that little shelter
we carry with us

and may forget
beside a chair

in a committee meeting
we did not especially want to attend.

What a beautiful word, “umbrella.”
A shade to be opened.

Like a bat’s wing, scalloped.
It shivers.

A drum head
beaten by the silver sticks

of rain,
and I do not have mine,

and so the rain showers me.

Michael Chitwood

One of the things that makes good poems good is their ability to be universal, detailed, and experiential.  In other words, you aren’t  just reading the poem, you are also experiencing the poem.  In this case, you see the umbrella, you can practically feel each perfectly described part of it; you feel the tedium of the committee meetings that everyone has sat through, and perhaps you can even feel the rain as it falls on you when you have forgotten your umbrella, or left it lying somewhere you didn’t want to be in the first place.

The first parts of the poem are about the shelter that an umbrella, and perhaps by extension, God, provides.  But then come the last lines: “and I do not have mine,/and so the rain showers me.”  If the presence of a black umbrella is an argument for the existence of God, is the absence of one something that calls God into question?

What do you all think?  I’d like to know (as always).

To my way of thinking, it doesn’t.  See again the title of the poem, “Here I Am Lord.”  This may be a simplistic interpretation, but it’s as if the writer is saying, “Here I am Lord, it’s raining, I’m getting wet and I need a damn umbrella!  Where are you?”

I know lots of people who have been getting wet lately.  I’ve heard some really harsh stories, and some sad, hard stuff is happening to people I love.  We’re not sure we’re going to make it through.  Somehow that doesn’t seem right at this time of the year, does it?  Because making it through to what is coming for us, to us, is what Advent is all about.  This is what we need to remember.

And in fact, the title of this post may be a little misleading, because umbrellas have actually been opening around me like flowers blooming in the spring.  It seems that when I ask for something, I get way more than I needed or deserved.  A phone call from a friend, endless support from my parents, tolerance from the people around me, and sometimes, the chance to give something to someone else.  Even though the rain is cold and dark, God has been sending me umbrellas the whole time.  It’s my very deep hope that others who may be struggling can be blessed in the same way.

I want to leave you with a quotation from Oswald Chambers, a Scottish minister who lived from1874-1917.  It has confused me, sustained me, and made me think about others when I couldn’t seem to stop obsessing about the poor weather conditions over my little head.  It reminds me that even darkness has a direct purpose, and one that does not just serve ourselves.  And I have found it to be utterly, absolutely, without a doubt, true.

“Are you in the dark just now in your circumstances, or in your life with God? ….When you are in the dark, listen, and God will give you a very precious message for someone else when you get into the light.”

8 Comments

Filed under advent, courage, spirituality

8 responses to “God, I Need an Umbrella

  1. Debby

    As always, I got so much from your writing. I have questioned many time where God is. Why He doesn’t seem to care about me, or why I somehow am the exception to His promises. But I also love the feeling after the rain, and standing there soaking wet as the sun comes out. How glorious to make it through. Sure, you got wet. It was dark, scary, painful…but you still stand. I love that, and it’s in those times that I realize God never left my side, I was just scrunching my eyes shut.

    It makes me think of the song lyrics, “I’m thirsty anyway,
    So bring on the rain.”

    Thank you for your words. They are a gift.

    Deb.

    Like

    • LCS

      I love the two images in your comment–feeling alone and then appreciating the rain–no, being in the rain anyway. You’re brave and wonderful!

      Thank you for being here!

      Like

  2. Rose Buckner

    Thanks for the lovely message, Leslie. Love, Rose

    Like

  3. Mom

    Leslie, I don’t know how you “come up” (for lack of a classier literary way of saying it) with all these profound thoughts. You give words to what I feel, and I’m sure others as well. And, you always have a poem to illustrate or illuminate what you are saying. AWESOME as Fr. McKenna would say.
    I have a variety of umbrellas, my most favorite being one Daddy gave me for Christmas one year. It’s all encompassing. It’s clear so you can see through it and opens up down to my waist almost. It make s me feel safe, protected, able to see (aware) and very loved. Just like God makes me feel. I hope you feel that way, too. However badly I feel about a situation, a feeling or circumstance, I know God knows and is there for me.

    Like

    • LCS

      Really, I’m begging you, could you change your screen name to something like “Editor of the New Yorker” so people would at least think someone besides my family reads this blog…

      Thank you for the “awesome” feedback. I wish I had an umbrella like that!

      Love,

      L (Jr.)

      Like

  4. Colleen Crowley

    The last lines from the minister I am putting on the kitchen cupboard door I repeatedly open. Such lovely advent gifts you send. I think of the line from the rock group, the Police: “It’s a big enough umbrella but it’s always me that ends up getting wet.” I have as a gift from a dear man a huge black umbrella with small brilliantly colored dots all over it and matching boots that make going out into the rain fun despite the inconvenience. Rain is necessary and my ensemble says, “Make the best of the necessary.”

    Like

  5. beth

    Hi Leslie,
    Love this post, especially since it’s the peak of rainy season up here in the Pacific Northwest. One thing I thought of as I read… and contemplated my home city… people here rarely use umbrellas. A few days after I moved here, I took an umbrella with me to Safeway — it was wet out, but not raining, though certainly overcast and threatening. When I got to the cashier, he looked at me holding an umbrella and said, “Did you just move here or something?” (I swear, this really happened.) I said, “Yeah, how could you possibly know that?” Him: “Well, nobody who has lived here very long would carry an umbrella around for THIS. THIS is nothing.” In the over eight years since that day, I’ve used an umbrella maybe twice– and it was quite clear when those times called for extra shelter. People here simply let the rain fall on them (and wear hooded coats).

    So in my mind, the rain is evidence of God, not a suggestion that He is absent. It makes my world green and lush. It makes the coffee taste better. And your post makes me appreciate the gentleness of the rain here. 🙂
    (btw, your request to have Ma’am change her “handle” made me burst into laughter.)

    Like

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