"Umbrellas up! ...And that's enough pear juggling."
If you don't know this quote as soon as you see it, you need to stop right here and go watch Princess Diaries right now. You'll thank me later.
"'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ's power may rest on me."
2 Corinthians 12:9
Most of my life, I have lived with an "umbrellas up," mentality. The umbrella has been the wall around my heart to protect myself from hurt, disappointment, and pretty much any other uncomfortable human emotion. My umbrella pretty much stayed up and it would take me a long time to move the umbrella down just an inch to let you into my heart. It took a lot for me to be vulnerable and to be open and honest about how I'm feeling. All the while, juggling too many pears like worship positions, quiet time, school (a HUGE school pear), family, friends, and a private life. I would hold that umbrella up high with one hand and juggle with the other hand- but that's another discussion for another time.
I keep using past tense but honestly I still do all of these things. Maybe not to the same degree as I did them before but I still have my umbrella up. Why is all of this important? Because, honestly, I'm terrified of two things:
1. Dropping my umbrella and being completely vulnerable.
2. Dropping my umbrella, being completely vulnerable, and no one wanting me or wanting to know me because they see me. Just me. Umbrella-less Allison.
One thing I've learned in just the few short weeks of the beginning of my senior year, is the umbrella isn't all it has cracked up to be. Over the years, I've noticed the umbrella come down just a little bit. A centimeter at a time. Little by little, the big, heavy duty wall that I held with a firm hand over my head and my heart, has come down. I've noticed that the further down I let my umbrella, the more God uses me.
This summer, the umbrella went completely down. I was my truest self: messed up, flawed, insecure in myself and yet confident in Christ in me (most of the time. Sometimes I get it right...sometimes), and 100% loved by my King and Lord. It's not that I wasn't those things before (especially the loved part). Rather, it was that I didn't recognize those things as much because my umbrella had been keeping out the most important person I needed to let in: the Lord. I knew I was flawed, believe me. This summer, I began to see those flaws as beautiful because instead of beating myself up about the fact that I still wasn't perfect, I could see where God had brought me (where He had redeemed me and healed me) and begin to see where He was taking me. He took me by the hand, told me I was beautiful (flaws and all), and took me on a walk down memory lane.
Now, camp will make you put down that umbrella. If you've ever been to a camp before, you know this to be true. At camp, I laid my umbrella down but I was sure to pick it back up before I left. A terrible decision, really. Why?
Pros to having my umbrella up:
1. I might not get hurt - but it doesn't guarantee that I won't.
2. I won't cry - but crying isn't a sign of weakness.
3. No one will see my face as I cry - it isn't the picture of sophistication and grace.
4. I get to pick what people know about me and I can pick all the good stuff - doesn't make the bad stuff go away, it just makes it a secret.
Cons to having my umbrella up:
1. No one is helping me carry my burdens. I'm carrying them on my own.
2. No one is encouraging me or building me up because I'm too scared to let them that close to know my struggles.
3. I have to constantly maintain the perfect picture the umbrella presents about me.
4. Do I even truly grasp what I'm struggling with or do I reason it away?
Over the years, I had turned myself into an island while telling other people, "It's okay that you're not okay. You can be vulnerable and share those things with someone," and not taking my own advice.
I'm not at all saying that we should be vulnerable 100% of the time because I don't think that's what God has called us to do. Scripture even tells us to guard our hearts because everything we do flows from it- it is the wellspring of life. I think God has called us to selective in whom we choose to be completely vulnerable towards and guard ourselves in other relationships. We shouldn't be an island. Instead, we're supposed to be like a small community. I was an island. I was Tom Hanks, stranded. Instead of talking to a beach ball, I was talking to an umbrella.
The umbrella doesn't keep you safe from getting hurt. You're still going to get hurt one way or another. The umbrella keeps you from loving others as Christ loved the church, completely and sacrificially (and sometimes that means sacrificing your pride and sharing your intimate struggles with someone). The umbrella does keep you from crying. Sometimes tears are exactly what you need and tears of joy are even better. The umbrella does allow you to pick and choose what information people know about you but is it really you? The umbrella doesn't keep you safe. It hurts you because it keeps you from being vulnerable before the Lord who will keep you safe. The Lord is a mighty Warrior and our Refuge. He already knows our struggles so why do we try to hide underneath our umbrellas like He can't already see through it?!
The umbrella also holds you back from experiencing all that God has planned for you. 2 Corinthians 12:9 demonstrates that perfectly. When we put our umbrella down and surrender to Him and His will fully, His power is made perfect in our weakness. Not almost good enough, not kinda okay...perfect. Our surrendered hearts and spirits to the will of God is the closest we will get this side of heaven to being the perfect human being God created us to be (and we consistently mess up).
We may think those flaws that we hide so well under our umbrella are ugly and not worth loving or showing to the world. Jesus thinks otherwise. Where we see weakness, He sees His power, love, and might. Where we see ugliness, He sees beauty. Where we see frustration, He sees His grace.
So, dear one, put down your umbrella. You are chose, holy, and dearly loved. It's time we both started acting like it.
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I am currently a teacher and life-long student of Scripture learning more about life and Jesus's marvelous love and boundless grace.