“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me…” John 10:27
Every once in a while, I tell the story of how I met one of my closest and dearest friends; a man that would influence my life on many levels, including inviting me back to church. All because, I listened to that "still small voice" and stepped out of character. I call it, The Umbrella Story.
The weatherman had warned of rain for the last two days and so far, I had lugged my new super-sized umbrella for no reason. However, I decided I would take it with me on the third day anyway; because, chances were, if I didn’t, it would rain "cats and dogs." Late that evening, as I left the subway, there it was, rain. –Not just light rain drops, but a major downpour. –The kind where both the earth and your shoes are completely soaked. I noticed only one other person on the street, a young man wearing a raincoat and a very suave fedora walking ahead of me. As the rain came down harder and harder, I felt quite lucky to have my trusty umbrella, and a little sorry for the guy in front of me getting pelted by the rain.
I watched as the brim of that fedora went from sleek and suave, to wet and limp; finally, completely flopping, under the pressure of the rain. I truly felt sorry for him; he was getting soaked, and now the rain was coming down even harder! In any other town, it would have been a kind gesture to let a stranger under your umbrella; but, this was New York City! It was too late, and we were the only ones on the street. Then a small voice said, “Why don’t you let him under your umbrella?” I don’t know where that voice came from, but I quickly dismissed it! Yet, although I was feeling quite dry and wonderful under my big umbrella, my eyes kept watching the rain pelt the guy in front of me. Again, the small voice said, “Why don’t you let him under your umbrella? It’s big enough for two.” –Not listening, I began to walk faster. For some reason he slowed down, and I was able to pass him; my eyes scanning the flopped fedora that was now akin to a 1930’s flapper’s hat.
Again the voice came back with the same question. “Why don’t you let him under your umbrella?” Feeling guilty and a little disgusted, I said out loud, “Fine! But if I end up dead on the streets of New York City it will be your fault!” Then, I stopped and waited; I was already at least twenty paces in front of him, but I could hear his squishy footsteps coming closer. “Excuse me; you look like you are getting soaked, would you like to come under the umbrella?
A little stunned by my question, he said, “Uh? –Yes!” And starting to laugh a little, he said, “I forgot my umbrella and was hoping it didn’t rain.” “Yeah,” I said, “I almost didn’t bring mine; but, since I’ve been lugging it for the past two days, I figured—what’s one more day!” We both laughed. “Well, I’m glad you did!” He said laughing. “OK,” I said, “Since you are much taller than I am, why don’t you hold it?” “Oh, okay.” He said, taking the umbrella; “—Wow! This is a big umbrella.” “Yeah,” I said, feeling a little guilty that I had not invited him under the umbrella before he got soaked. “
I don’t know how far you are going, but I live in the first building right pass the light." I said, clearly seeing my destination in view. “Oh that’s great!" He said. "–I live in the building right next door!” "Of course," I thought to myself, "he would live right next door!"
One year later, I was sitting in a new class and a young man in our study group asked if he could accompany me to the subway. Although I was a little surprised, I said, “Yes.” On the way, he began to tell me of a young woman who gave him shelter under her umbrella late one evening. “That was you!” he said. “No,” I said, shaking my head. “It could not have been me; I would never do anything so nice. It may have been my sister. She is a lot nicer and would let some unknown stranger under her umbrella. I would have kept going. —So, you must be mistaken, I am sure it wasn’t me!” Although he insisted as we took the subway together, I adamantly denied this unmemorable event. It was easy to dismiss the event because I sincerely believed it was clearly out of my character. “I’m getting off at the next stop.” I said, rising from my seat. “I know,” He said, “I’m getting off also.” As we walked towards both our homes, it began to rain. “Of course, I forgot my umbrella!” He said, with some degree of exasperation. “Oh, don’t worry,” I said teasing, “I have my umbrella, and —it’s big enough for two!” As we got under that big umbrella and began walking home in the rain, it hit me. “Oh my Goodness! It was me!” I said, screaming with laughter! “I told you it was you!” He said, laughing.
We have been friends for over 20 years, and it is because of his urging that I found my way back to what would become my favorite church. He is an incredibly talented man, who I have never once regretted meeting, and, it is because of him that you are reading this story right now. So, just imagine for a moment what can happen when you listen to God’s voice and do something that you consider out of character. L.
Study Reference: John 10:25-31
From: "Friendship In The Rain." In The Master's Hands: 365 Daily Devotions For Everyday Living.
Copyright © 2014 by Lavona E. Campbell