The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore. (Ps 121:6-8)
I received a small bronze cross with German writing inscribed on the back. My experience with high school German was brief and unsuccessful. I took a few minutes on a Thursday morning to call Susanne, an acquaintance who emigrated from Germany to the U.S. during her college years.
Susanne is a professor and administrator at the University. She is a researcher and well-published scholar on public health policy. Her appearance and demeanor are cultured and elegant. Our previous interactions mainly involved my legal review of the documentation and contracts for her research grants.
I told her, “I have this small bronze cross that has German writing on the back of it. I can't really pronounce the words, but if I spell them out for you would you please translate them for me?”
“I'll be glad to try,” she said.
I spelled out the words, letter by letter, giving her the pronunciation markings, as well.
There was a long silence while Susanne worked out the translation. Her voice was warm and gentle when she explained.
“This is high German,” she said, “very elegant. It is a beautiful blessing. The translation into English will not be as exact as the German, but here it is. ‘The Lord will umbrella over you and protect you from all evil things.’ The word used for “evil” describes something awful, horrible really. So the blessing is ‘The Lord will cover you like an umbrella and protect you from all horrible things.’”
The lawyer and the scholar considered the implications for a quiet moment together. “That is beautiful,” I said after the pause. “I believe those words. Thank you.”
“I believe them too,” she said. “Thank you.”
Why do I believe those words? I have suffered horrible things. What sensate person has not? I am a believer because I’ve discovered the Lord beside me in the worst of the horror, the most devastating of the losses, the most painful of the rejections, the most abject of my shameful failures. I was surprised, even terrified, by his love in those times and came to understand his love for me would never be more or less but would cover me as I walked on.
The purpose of umbrellas is not to spare us the storm, but to help get us through it. David wrote that the Lord walks beside us through the long dark valley of death, not around it (Ps 23:4). Jesus said we would have many trials and sorrows in this world as a matter of course, but we could take heart that he received the worst abuse the mind of evil could conceive and overcame it because of his Father’s love (John 16:32-33).
I live in dry country in time of drought, but even I get a chance to use an umbrella, now and then. I see women on our streets walking under parasols to shade them from our hot sun as was their custom in their countries of origin. Over-exposure to the elements is lethal. Rain or shine, none of us is without the need of shelter.
The metaphor of the Lord as our umbrella represents amazing grace. Jesus Christ, our Creator and Savior, came and pitched his tent in our neighborhood. He came to live as one of us to offer us the tangible presence of God’s saving and sheltering love (John 17:11-12). It is his very nature and mission to be “a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in their distress, a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat” (Isa 25:4).
The key to sharing an umbrella in a storm or the hot sun is to stay close and keep in step. God the Father sent Jesus to bring us in out of the battering storms and blazing heat of life in this exposed and ravaged world. Christ offers us the cover of his grace. “As God said, ‘I will live in them and walk among them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people’” (2 Cor 6:16b, quoting Jer 31:1).
On a Thursday morning, a professor and a lawyer were quieted with the reminder that the Lord has us covered – a shelter in the time of storm.
Kent Hansen is a business and healthcare attorney from Corona, California. This essay first appeared in his weekly email devotional, “A Word of Grace for Your Monday.” Kent’s devotionals can be read on the C.S. Lewis Foundation blog at www.cslewis.org.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6787