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Broken Umbrellas

by Emma Broch Stuart

It snowed the day of my grandson’s funeral. Pure grace blanketing dirty mounds of earth.  Through my tears, my gaze fell on a sagging blue umbrella suspended over the head of a woman grieving our tiny loss with us. New tears sprang from within me, from depths I didn’t know existed. Not from the loss of my precious one, but from this old umbrella, broken and twisted, yet hovering and flapping above this woman. It offered no protection at all from the wetness dropping from the sky, yet she clung to it. Broken and unsheltered. Could anything symbolize my heart—and all humanity—better than this crippled umbrella? And then she did something that tore me apart.

She moved her brokenness in an attempt to protect the man beside her.

We are all surrounded by brokenness, around us and inside us—from divorce, from abuse, from loss. We try to relate and serve, to love and protect…but how can we, when we ourselves are broken? We still end up exposed to life’s storms. We still end up covered in snow. And we wonder why.

In this transparent and honest look into humanity’s deepest hurts, hope for our relationships comes through the ultimate Relationship with the Lord. Join author Emma Broch Stuart as she travels that snowy road of pain toward the ultimate healing only God can offer.

Introduction

I take down a soup bowl from the cupboard, scratch off the dried bits the dishwasher failed to remove, and set it at my place. The second bowl I pull down makes me laugh. Dried glue still clings to the noticeable break line from where I expertly repaired my favorite bowl. The lime green one with mom written on the side. Of course the O is now lopsided. I place the crooked bowl on the table and reach for another one.

Funny how I never noticed the brokenness when setting the table for just myself. I need new dishes.

I need a new life.

I give myself a shake. No. I will serve a meal with what I have and leave the rest up to God.

Steam escapes the pot, and I give the contents a quick stir. I sigh, imagining my readers’ reaction to the meal I’m preparing for them. It’s very fitting really. Soup in broken bowls, served by a broken hostess.

Standing at the kitchen sink the other day, I wondered how to do the research for a book on brokenness since I’m not a schooled theologian. I suddenly realized I’ve lived the research, and that is theology. Theology, at its core, is simply knowing God. So then, a theologian is simply someone who believes anything about God.[1]

 That by no means makes me an expert on brokenness, but with a past full of it, I have a genuine understanding of the subject. Beth Moore, in her book So Long, Insecurity, explains how God exposed every insecurity she had to make her a genuine writer on the subject.[2]

Broken Umbrellas is authentic. This I promise you. Brokenness consumed me and defined me most of my life. Even though I now stand in victory, I admit I’m not so eager to relive that brokenness through the pages of this book. Finding the courage to be vulnerable with you comes from God. If I relied on my own strength, Broken Umbrellas would not exist.

At times I prefer to shut the door on my past and forge ahead with all the knowledge and wisdom I’ve gleaned from God’s healing. But God didn’t bring me through this to keep the richness of His healing to myself. I must declare His glory. My testimony may help one person find their healing—or better yet, their Healer—and that one life is worth being vulnerable.


[1] Carolyn Custis James, When Life and Beliefs Collide (Zondervan, 2001), 19.

[2] Beth Moore, So Long, Insecurity: You’ve Been a Bad Friend to Us (Tyndale, 2010), 342.

Chapter 1

Broken Umbrellas

It snowed the day of my grandson’s funeral. Pure grace blanketing dirty mounds of earth moved aside to make room for the baby life now gone. Softness floated down as we wept at the graveside. Through my tears, my gaze fell on a sagging blue umbrella suspended over the head of a woman grieving our tiny loss. Grieving with my family. New tears sprang from within me—from depths I didn’t know existed. Not from the loss of my precious one, but from this old umbrella, broken and twisted, yet hovering and flapping above this woman. It offered no protection at all from the wetness dropping from the sky, yet she clung to it. Broken and unsheltered. Could anything symbolize my heart—and all humanity—better than this crippled umbrella? And then she did something that tore me apart. She moved her brokenness in an attempt to protect the man beside her.

Brokenness around us is easier to see than brokenness within ourselves. Just as the woman at my grandson’s funeral tried to cover the man beside her with her broken umbrella, we relate and serve, love and protect with our brokenness. People still end up covered in life’s bad weather. We still end up covered in snow. And we wonder why.

Hurts happen through relationships, but there is One Relationship that will heal the hurt. We have a relational God and He created us for relationship. Many of us don’t realize our relationship umbrellas are broken.

We carry on attempting to cover those around us with our brokenness. Our friendships suffer. Family hurts spill over into generation after generation. We say marriage vows, but our brokenness will prevent us from keeping our promises to love and honor. Our intentions are honorable, but reality has proven time and time again that even honorable intentions have PMS, or get fired from work, or sit up all night with a sick baby, thus causing love and honor to fly out the window during spats and cranky arguments with the one we pledged so much to.

Why is it so hard to relate to others? It’s not like trying to dry wet clothes in a blender. A blender blends. A dryer dries clothes. We were made for relationship, but all of us struggle with the one thing we were created for.

Broken relationships have been evident since the beginning. All we need are a few tents, some manna dropping from the sky, and we’re the Israelites all over again.

There was a small sliver of time where all was right with relationships. I can imagine being there, surrounded by the splendor of a newly created world, where God walked with us in the cool of the day, conversed with us, delighted in us as we discovered. Pure. Just Him and us with the whole world at our feet.

Every once in a while, I glimpse that perfectness. It’s like I stop being my broken self for a second and actually feel heaven’s breeze upon my face. When that happens, there is absolutely nowhere for brokenness to cling to me. It’s like when Peter stepped out of the boat and walked toward Jesus in Matthew 14:29. In those few moments, he was not a broken human being living in a broken world. He glimpsed and grasped wholeness.

Only Christ’s wholeness will heal our brokenness. And it’s a journey.

Here’s a glimpse at mine.

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