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.
A drum head
beaten by the silver sticks
and I do not have mine,
and so the rain showers me.
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.”