By Josh Hunt
Three friends are walking on the way when a sudden thunderstorm brings a deluge to their town. They immediately weigh their options. One of the friends is out of shape and can’t run to escape the weather. One of the friends is older and isn’t as fast as he used to be. The third friend is the picture of physical health, but decides that she’d rather walk with her friends than leave them by themselves on the way. Fortunately, one of the friends is always prepared with an umbrella. She pulls it from her side and lifts it over their three heads.
The three friends crowd into an umbrella designed for two. It doesn’t take them long at all to realize that they’re still getting rained on. “We really should invest in a larger umbrella,” says the one who is always dependable enough to bring one. The other two agree, and the three of them begin a conversation about what kind of umbrella they should buy, who should make the purchase, where it should come from, what it should look like, how big it should be, and so on.
A man wearing an industrial three-piece rain suit and fishing waders spots the three friends and begins to cross the street to meet them. He’s dry and warm, but all the stuff he carries around to keep the elements away cause him to move erradically as he lunges around traffic to push himself into their conversation. He looks like he has experience playing in traffic in his raingear.
“You three look ridiculous,” he says, his bright yellow fishing hat protecting his perfectly coiffed hair from the squall. “This is the last storm the three of you will ever be under one umbrella. You’ll split up and get a second umbrella.” Finished dispensing his wisdom, he’s gone, crossing the street back to the side he came from, apparently self-satisfied with his prediction.
The friends wonder why the man takes pride in saying such things. “We don’t want to walk under two umbrellas. We’re going to the same place. We enjoy being with each other. We want an umbrella where all of us can have a place.” They continue on the way.
“Hey, umbrella freaks!” The voice calls from the intercom of a 45-passenger bus that has just pulled up beside them. “Don’t you have enough sense to get in out of the rain? There’s plenty of room for EVERYBODY here! Want to join us? We had this umbrella conversation years ago. You’re so behind the times. A bus is where it’s at.”
It does look nice and warm and dry and roomy in there. It’s tempting.
The three friends discuss it. “I enjoy our walks together,” says one. “I have walking shoes that would never get used if I rode the bus,” says another. “After walking with you for years, I’ve got huge calluses on my feet,” says the third, “and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”
“We’ll walk together,” they say in unison into the intercom, and the bus speeds off, leaving them in diesel fumes.
When the smoke begins to clear, the umbrella-holder asks, “Are you all sure we’re doing the right thing? Lots of people seem to be questioning this conversation. This new umbrella will be heavier and harder to carry. It will attract attention, some of it from people who prefer smaller umbrellas or rain suits or buses.”
But then they see a man who has no umbrella, no rain suit, no bus. He’s cold and wet. They invite him to share their small umbrella as they continue their discussion. Of course, now they look even more ridiculous than before. They don’t care. The four of them decide that the journey they cherish, and the friends they love, and all the people who are caught in the rain make the conversation worth having and the criticism more bearable.
“We really do need a bigger umbrella,” they say. And they continue on the way.
-Josh Hunt is pastor of Ross Grove Baptist Church in Shelby, N.C.