UMBRELLAS—My Testimony by Kelly Duffy

A testimony has, admittedly, been quite a daunting task for me to complete.

I always imagined it as the exact moment the sky opened, in the midst of horrific rain, and I, standing in the worst of it, am suddenly no longer getting wet. I stand under the protection of a giant umbrella, not seen to the naked eye, and no longer have to fear the storm around me. I find comfort in the beating raindrops, seemingly slowed in motion past my head, and the winds of fury have dwindled to a comfortable breeze passing through my hair. Fear is a sentiment of the past and I look forward with a new sense of belonging, an undeniable sense of peace. It’s the moment in Christian literature when a single sentence from the Gospel is whispered and only our protagonist can hear it. The words change everything for them, and provide the direction they have been searching for.

In my case, instead of an umbrella I long believed I was handed an old, rusty compass—one that twisted and turned without any confidence in its accuracy. I felt that the rain would come and go as it pleased, and there was an envy for those I felt were privileged with these hypothetical, protective umbrellas. Envy, privilege, accuracy—adjectives that sat near to my heart for several years, not realizing the weight they held. Battling anxiety, I always thought and dreamed in absolutes and certainties. There could be no grey area because I would not know how to navigate it. Simply, there were those who were worthy of the love and conviction found in Christ, and then there was the rest of us. Some would go on with their lives without worry or any curiosity about this greater Being who could change their lives. Others would watch that one beautiful soul in the front row at church, arms held high in the air with closed eyes and open hearts, wondering what secrets they knew, how they came to form such a deep connection. I was part of the latter.

I have frequently questioned whether I was worthy of this grace, and I dwell on the past experiences that have made me into the woman I am today. I remember, late in grade school, buying a hardcover children’s Bible. My thumbs would drag carefully over the smooth paper as I read the stories, tracing the outlines of biblical faces in the colorful illustrations. That’s where religion stopped for me though, and adolescence introduced me to the world of social media and bullies. I lost confidence in myself, and my beliefs, as I sought the approval of those around me. This mindset followed behind me like an unwelcome and unrecognized shadow. It was uninvited, but I was unaware of its suffocating presence.

For a brief period, I did try to find my place in a large church. I found a young adult small group to join, jumped on the bus for the retreats, even volunteered for the technology team and the young ministry. I longed to find my place in this crowd. There was a spark in my soul, but all I sought to ignite it with was overshadowed by the guilt and shame I carried. Life in the church faded, and I became what I viewed as just another ordinary human being.

I cannot be certain when the change happened, but, at some point, I came to the realization that my giant umbrella was not coming. There would never be a single moment for me when my life traveled onto a new trajectory and all that followed would be undeniably flawless.

I have, however, found a series of smaller umbrellas along the way. The coffee dates with friends where we speak of sermons and hobbies and bond over everything that makes us alike, while diving into all that makes us so different. The nights I attend Bible study, where my introverted nature is pushed aside and I am, without fear of who is looking at me, no longer afraid of opinions or judgement. I am surrounded by stories, advice and companionship that hold me close and keep me warm on the nights when the darkness tries to sneak in. The pastors who uploaded series of messages in the midst of a terrifying pandemic, unaware that their words were helping to keep my faith alive, even thousands of miles away in an entirely different state. These are a few of the moments where God whispered without needing to reference a single verse, without my questioning or needing proof of his existence. These are the days when umbrellas of all shapes and sizes came to my rescue, shielding me from the trials of this life, and I found myself honored to stand in awe of their beauty.

Perhaps hidden in all the laughter and the tears lies a single moment where everything changed for me. I am not certain I will ever know for sure. Right now, each day I am graced with the opportunity to choose God and the blessings He has provided. I proclaim those hours as my living testimony. A relationship with God and all He as in store for me is a daily, intentional and sometimes difficult act. My faith, my story, is without a show of fireworks, but with little sparks instead. Sparks of hope, of love and of pure joy sprinkled into each moment I choose to look up with confidence rather than inward with doubt.

I chose this unconventional testimony, and seeing the woman I am becoming, I would not have asked for it in any other way.

By day, Kelly Duffy is a nurse working in Upstate New York. By night, she is a wife, a friend, a daughter, a writer, a seeker of adventure and believer in unconditional love. She was honored to have her short story included in Heart of Flesh – Issue Eight as her first publication, and looks forward to any future opportunities to share her words to both the Christian community and those who have yet to find God. The stories we tell and the pieces of our life we share can prove to be the way an individual finally finds faith in this world, and she is honored to be a part of those voices.

Are you searching for God?


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