I am a thief.

At least, that’s what my friends who were in my cell group in college call me. Their accusation stems from an incident in the Spring of 2006 when in the midst of room hopping late at night in the student center so as to avoid the eyes of the security guard, we stumbled upon an abandoned umbrella in the dimly lit corner of a conference room. I purloined the de trop parasol post haste.

Before you get all judgmental like my friends, trust me, you would have grabbed it too. This was the Excaliber of umbrellas. It was big and blue and white and in perfect condition with a thick rubber handle and long blue sleeve with a hole in the bottom for the spike to exit and keep from collecting moisture. This was the kind of umbrella Tiger Woods would make his caddy hold while he teed off on the 18th at Pebble Beach in a downpour. It may have been bullet proof. I never had the chance to find out, thankfully, but I have my suspicions after it once protected me admirably in a hail storm.

I adored this umbrella so much I didn’t mind my friends’ derision in the least. Love like ours recognizes no outside criticism.

I used that umbrella for four and a half years, and then, one fateful evening last fall, I took it with me and another friend to a concert in Hollywood. At the door, the ticket taker would not allow me to bring my umbrella into the building. Faced with either not going to the concert or leaving my umbrella behind, I chose the latter. You may think I betrayed my faithful polyester impermeable, but he understood, and I trust he found a new home with some rain weary passer by. Somewhere out there now, that umbrella is probably protecting some homeless person from squirrel cast acorns in an L.A. park.

Mainly though, I was ok with giving up my umbrella because it had come to me unbidden, and if the time had come to let it go, oh well. I was grateful for my umbrella. It was, to me, a symbol of God’s provision, strange as that may sound. Every time it rained, I grabbed my umbrella and remembered that God provided this protection and I could trust God to provide in the future.

Two days after relinquishing my bumbershoot, it was a rare rainy day in Pasadena. A rainy day in Pasadena almost always means light sprinkles and occasional actual rain drops. An umbrella is nice to have, but it isn’t really necessary for the 200 yard walk from my apartment to my work place. I usually just don my raincoat and call it good. That day, I had done just that – I had decided to trust my raincoat because I didn’t really have any other choice, umbrella-less pedestrian that I was.

At some point that day, I left my desk to use the restroom. Upon entering the men’s facilities, I spied a left behind umbrella on the back of a urinal. God provides! I snatched it up, checked to make sure it was operable, and smiled at the irony.

I was a thief once again.

This umbrella wasn’t the Arthurian legend that the other was, but it was quite a nice piece of precipitation precluding equipment. It collapsed down into a very tight package, sprung lively into action, and created a nice shadow of protection from the elements. In Pasadena, it was all the parapluis I needed.

I brought my new umbrella with me to Paris, having heard rumors of wet Parisian summer days. The rumors are true. In the two weeks I’ve been here, it’s rained half the time. I love it, because I love rain, and I’ve been glad I brought my umbrella on the trip with me. The other day when I almost had my Metro card stolen and then had to walk back to work in the rain, my umbrella performed laudably.

Sadness descended from the sky. I reached for my umbrella yesterday morning on my way to the train station only to find that it had somehow broken. It was no longer capable of holding out its arms to catch the falling droplets and keep them from my person. Disappointed, I grabbed my hosts’ umbrella that was hanging nearby and rushed out the door to catch the train. Upon opening this borrowed umbrella, I found that it was slightly disheveled, and while it would work in the lightest of rainfalls, in any kind of wind it was going to fail me. Fortunately, I did not need it yesterday as the rain only fell briefly in the morning.

Today, however, is a different story. Today the rain is serious. I brought the borrowed umbrella in with me today, and it did a good job getting me to work, but I feared for its integrity the entire time.

I actually considered purchasing an umbrella on the way into work today. I know. How could I? Didn’t I trust God to provide? Hadn’t umbrellas proven themselves to be available whenever necessary over the past few years? Is your faith faltering, Elijah? No. My faith is fine, but all those umbrellas hanging from the rack by the newsstand sure did look a lot like God’s provision to me as I braved the storm under my quickly evaporating envelope of umbrellaed shelter.

I decided to wait. I made it to work and decided I’d decide what to do sometime today before I boarded the train back to Chateau Thierry.

Today at work, I helped Francisco organize the gallery and performance space downstairs. Heavy things were lifted, floors were swept, copper bar tops were polished, and more than one dish was washed. As we were wrapping up, Francisco calls out to me from backstage, “Elijah, do you want an umbrella?” I physically leapt in my excitement.

So now, I have a new umbrella, a classy, curved, opaque handled water cane with a canopy featuring pictures of an English fox hunt and various red and blue flowers.

Yep. It’s the umbrella of an elderly woman. Maybe her age is why she forgot it over two years ago at La Pave d’Orsey. For two years this umbrella has been cluttering up the backstage area of the facility, and today, of all days, Francisco decides to offer it to the person helping him clean.

God provides. That’s all there is to it. Even for a thief like me. “He makes the rain fall on the righteous and the unrighteous,” and it seems He also provides them with umbrellas when they need them.

Gene Kelly Was Here

These blog posts were all written in the summer of 2011. They chronicle my time in Paris completing an internship as part of my studies at Fuller Seminary. I worked at an art gallery run by missionary-artists ministering to other Parisian artists and got to know the missionary-artists working there.

I am including them here for you to read because I think they work well together as a series. I wrote them as a kind of narrative collage about what it means to be a practicing artist whose first commitment is to Christ and who seeks to share the love of Christ with other artists.