Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The wind-whipped umbrella

On a cool summer night I lay fast asleep in my bed, a pleasant breeze passing through my open windows. The temperature was just right for sleeping, my pillows were perfectly fluffed and my dreams were peaceful and sweet.
And then the winds kicked up. The breeze turned into gusts. I woke up to the whistling of a northwestern wind whipping through the trees, causing branches to beat against the side of the house. A few moments later rain began to fall in buckets, piercing the gutters, providing an musical element of pinging to the wind's gusts.
Then, as if on cue, came an alarming crash. The instant I heard the sound I immediately knew its source. It was the umbrella. And not just any umbrella. It was the beautiful deck umbrella made of teak, enveloped by an emerald green canopy and adorned with strings of white twinkle lights. It rested in a concrete stand in the center of our outdoor, deck table. As a family we sat under the shade of that canopy nearly every summer night eating grill-prepared meals and ice cream sundaes for dessert. But even the well-built, sturdy umbrella didn't stand a chance against the sudden storm's powerful squalls.
I jumped from my bed and rushed down the stairs to find a disastrous scene and my heartbroken Mother. The umbrella, broken in pieces, lay resting at the bottom of the deck stairs. Pieces of wood lay in a trail of destruction leading to the pile of shattered twinkle lights mangled around splintered teak and ripped green canvas.
I hadn't anticipated the coming wind and rain. The weather forecast wasn't consulted to check on any unlikely storms stirring off in the distance. It had never crossed my mind to turn the simple pulley system on the umbrella's pole and bring the canopy to a safely closed position for the night. Now the umbrella was nothing more than a mess to be disposed of with the next trash collection.
Recalling the sad end to my family's beloved umbrella reminded me of the unpredictable nature of storms and the destruction they so easily leave behind. Those of us who fail to prepare risk suffering as a result of the unforeseen, disastrous disturbance.
When it comes to the elemental storms of this physical life we often get warning thanks to the weather man and never-ending news cycle. The preparation for meteorological storms is straight-forward. Put down the umbrella canopy. Sure up the windows. Bring in the wind chimes. But there is a very different kind of storm that rarely comes with an alert, blasting horn or red banners running across the bottom of the TV screen.
The storms of the personal life come unannounced and produce infinitely more damage than a destroyed piece of patio furniture. Thankfully, there is a protocol for preparation. By remaining connected to the anchor of Christ in all circumstances - sunny, stormy and everything in between - we can be ready for whatever life will bring.
The preparation God advocates is an everyday suring up of our hearts and securing of our souls. To enjoy the fullness of God's protection we can't simply wait for the storm to roll in and then seek refuge. The destruction will happen too quickly. We must remain in Christ at all times to be fully guarded against the devastation the sudden storm can and will cause.
A storm is coming. I don't know when but I know that someday, without a warning or watch in effect, the storm will roll in. From now on I'm taking the canopy down on my umbrella and I'm taking my heart to the foot of the cross. In all ways I will prepare for the winds and rains so that I can make it through the storm in peace, security and with an upright umbrella.

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