I seem to spend a lot of June and July under an umbrella. Not because it’s raining, but because my fair, freckly, northern-European skin makes me fundamentally unsuited to the Mediterranean sun. So, a shade-junkie, I dart about between patches of coolness, clutching a bottle of water and wearing a big hat.
Because I appreciate the shade so much, I love these verses from Psalm 121:
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
Sometimes, even a big hat isn’t quite enough. The first time I saw someone carrying an umbrella like this in brilliant sunshine, however, I thought it looked very odd indeed. Where I come from umbrellas are sold in the autumn when skies are ominously grey and then blow inside out on arctic railway station platforms. In my mind, unless it’s enormous and anchored to a lump of concrete outside a cafe, an umbrella is about keeping dry.
But in a Cyprus summer it’s not uncommon to see an umbrella on a blazing hot day, carried by someone who needs a portable pool of respite from the harsh sun.
God is speaking to me today about the shade he offers, about his promise to protect me day in and day out, about his constant presence over, around and next to me.
Firstly, like this umbrella, his shade is portable. I don’t have to dart from prayer meeting to church meeting, from quiet time to worship CD to experience his protection, his presence. I can carry it with me all the time. There is truth in the words that he is always with me, and his intention is that I should experience it.
Secondly, God’s protection is at work in season and out of season. It may be that you are used to experiencing God’s help in one area of your life, but it has simply never occured to you to ask for it in another situation. Perhaps you haven’t seen that an umbrella can be as helpful in sunshine as it is in rain.
Lastly, I also notice that there is room under this shelter for more than one person. One of the great advantages of an umbrella is that it moves with you. You can take it into places where it is needed and then invite others to walk alongside you for a while. As they walk with you, they too can experience the shelter of God’s love, the nearness of his presence. Today’s postcard is an encouragement to me to invite others to walk beside me, to learn to let other people step into the presence of God that I carry with me. I’ll have to let you know how I get on with learning how to do that.
God is always with us. But it is possible to carry an umbrella in all kinds of weather, and yet never put it up, never stand underneath it and benefit from its shelter. Perhaps today the Holy Spirit is calling you to step under his protection, to stop trying to brave it out by yourself and to ask for some help.
Whatever God is saying you today, I hope that you will enjoy the shade of his presence as you draw close to him.