“Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” — Jesus, Matthew 11:28-30
He came through town on business, and we went to breakfast last Saturday morning. We’ve known each other for some 50 years, since we met in college. I love him like a brother because he is.
I had three pancakes, three slices of bacon and two medium poached eggs with hot coffee. I was only able to hack through half the feast. Besides, I wasn’t there for the food. I was there because my soul needed food and my friend is a great chef for hungry souls.
We talked about our common memories and about God and the church. It wasn’t long until the conversation turned to the afterlife. That’s when, with tears in his eyes, he talked about his beautiful wife. She died almost nine years ago after losing her fourth battle with breast cancer.
That’s when tears clouded my eyes as I haltingly said, “I still miss her.” And, I do. In his last words to his wife, he said to her, “We had a great ride, didn’t we?”
The hospice nurse told him that, when she administered the next shot of morphine, his wife would go to sleep and never wake up. My friend stood guard over her until her soul slipped away.
He went on to tell me that he and his wife would sit on the back porch every morning and have a cup of coffee before he went to work. In the evening they’d sit on the same back porch and share a glass of wine.
As death’s dark and heavy clouds drew closer, my friend tearfully told his wife, “I don’t know how to help you or what I should be doing or where to go. I’m so very lost.”
His wife told him, “All I need is for you to hold the umbrella. It’s raining right now, and I’m stuck out in it. You can’t stop the rain, and you can’t fix this. All I need you to do is hold the umbrella.”
“You can’t stop the rain, and you can’t fix this. All I need you to do is hold the umbrella.”
I’ve spent hours pondering her profound words. We can’t fix the world. We can hold umbrellas when it’s raining on someone. We can hold umbrellas just like some have held them for us.
When I was a young minister, I would pound the pulpit as I yelled at hurting people. Dear God, please forgive me for screaming at hurting people! Some people were carrying burdens so heavy they would double up. For some of those folks, it was all they could to do to crawl to the sanctuary for their weekly scolding.
Then, as I grew older, a strange thing happened. Life happened to me and doubled me to the ground. My preaching changed as my voice became more compassionate. I finally awakened to the fact that many people are stuck in the rain. They walk among us, soaking wet. All they need is an umbrella and someone to hold it.
I didn’t know it back then. It was my friend’s umbrella confession that made me awaken to the fact that, although it took decades, I learned to hold the umbrella for people stuck out in the rain, like Jesus did and still does.
“I can’t thank God enough for those who held the umbrella for me when I was stuck out in the rain.”
I can’t thank God enough for those who held the umbrella for me when I was stuck out in the rain. I know their names. In a spirit of deep gratitude, I thank God for them.
When the dark and heavy rain clouds are beginning to close in, I know one of them will show up to hold the umbrella.
Glen Schmucker is a writer, speaker and Baptist pastor who lives in Fort Worth, Texas. Follow his blog on Facebook.
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