Armor of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. ~Ephesians 6:10-13
We had a fight. The evening was supposed to be a bit of a romantic getaway, and we fought. It sucked (and I rarely use that word). I wanted to talk, he wanted space. I wanted immediate resolution, he wanted immediate sleep. I had a migraine, he had stress. It was a perfect storm.
We were in a hotel, several hours from home. It was too late to go for a mind-clearing drive, and I had no idea where I would drive. He was rolled up in the covers, snoring his nightly medley, and I didn’t want to stay in the room. I needed to get out, get away from him, from the air heavy with disappointment. But where would I go?
I took the book I was attempting to read and left the room. As I walked to the elevator, a sign caught my eye. ‘Area of refuge’ it happily stated in vivid green letters, beside the cautionary red exit sign. What?? Since when do they put those signs up? And where the heck is this proclaimed ‘area of refuge’?
Well, it led to the elevator and the ice machine. A means of escape and a means of cooling off. Refuge.
The mere word ‘refuge’ brought to my mind the old reliable verse, God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1) And honestly, that comforted me greatly. There’s not always a sign, in fact, there’s rarely a sign, that tells us where to find an area of refuge. But God is our ever-present refuge. He’s our shelter and strength wherever we are. He’s our spiritual sanctuary, our mental fortress, our emotional retreat.
Over and over, this promise is proclaimed…
Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed. (Psalm 57:1)
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge. (Psalm 31:4)
As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 18:30)
But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. (Psalm 5:11)
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans. (Psalm 118:8)
Of course I wanted a tryst with my husband rather than a trial, but perhaps I needed some alone time in my refuge first. I met God in a little booth in the lobby, while sipping my lemon tea and thinking. I spent the time I needed with him in order to be a better mate for the man I would greet in the morning.
There isn’t always a sign, but there is always a refuge.
My daughter has a phobia of a particular toy…a run-directly-out-of-the-store-not-straight-for-mom phobia. Those tactile balls with fringey hair dangling off of them…the ones that squeeze and the hair dances…here’s a picture:
Yeah, those. She despises them. Always has. I’ve warned her preschool teachers and play date hosts that the sight of this particular type of toy will send her screaming in the opposite direction. We couldn’t even get in the pool one day this past summer because she saw a child with one of those in the water. She clung on to me, left scratch marks on my arms, and refused to get in until that family had departed the premises. Get the picture? She dislikes them.
When I took her to preschool one morning recently, I noticed one of her playmates had brought one of those despised fringey caterpillars with her that day. It was sitting on the table while the little girl played. As home toys are not allowed at preschool, I knew the teacher would put it in the child’s cubby, but I was intrigued about how D would handle its presence. So the teacher and I stood in the doorway and observed.
She noticed it on the table and took a stutter step backwards but didn’t head for the hills. “Is that yours?” she asked her friend. “Yes, you can play with it if you want,” was the reply back. D looked at me in the doorway, and then carefully reached over with one finger and touched it. I was so proud of her that I almost cheered, but I kept quiet and watched further. She tapped it a couple of times, and she and her friend giggled at its wiggly hair. Her friend picked it up and held it out to her. D stepped back and said, “I don’t want it,” but again, didn’t flee. She looked at the over-sized buttons she was playing with and offered one for the caterpillar to eat. Then she got her brilliant idea. The cardboard box in which the buttons were housed was just slightly bigger than the caterpillar. “I know! Let’s make this box his house.” She tipped the box over the creepy little toy so that it was hidden from sight. “If he’s in his house, he won’t scare anyone if they’re scared of him.” Her friend liked the idea. She peeked under the box and talked to her wiggly friend and then covered him back up again. The two girls giggled and continued to play with the over-sized buttons, ignorant of the milestone that had just been achieved. I stood in the doorway, near tears, and beamed at my little angel.
As I drove to work, I considered what D had done. She had approached the thing in her little life that scared her the most. She had addressed it. She had interacted with it. And she had taken control of it. Wow…The thing that previously frightened the liver out of her was now safely inside a box…a house for it, that she had built. She had seen it coming, acknowledged its presence, touched it, and put herself in a position of power over it. Without falling apart. No tears, no departure, no phobic response. Just baby steps of control.
Oh, my precious, darling D…I want to bottle up that moment of power in your life and replay it for you over and over and over again in your future. When the fringey things turn into human things or inhumane things… May you keep that mature courage to identify the fear and take control of it. Build a house for your fears, little one, and put them in it so they don’t interfere with your other activities. My brave, brave dear…may that courageous moment in your short history represent the beginning of a life of confidence and competence. And may I be around to see you grow and grow with you.
Today I will put my own fear of my children growing up in its own little box, and I will go back to playing with them and enjoy every minute of it.
I’m not one for cliches. Metaphors, yes. Cliches, not so much. But there’s a cliche that floats around some female circles that I wish wasn’t a cliche…because I like the idea behind it. Beauty for ashes.
I know some really amazing ladies, most older than me, but some younger. I admire their wisdom, discernment, patience, love, grace…the list goes on. But when I think about how they acquired those traits, I realize that they didn’t learn how to be amazing by sitting on the couch eating bon-bons. They didn’t develop inner strength by having an easy life.
Unexpected loss of marital bliss. Never knowing marital bliss. Heart-wrenching loss of a child. Drawn-out loss of parent. Drawn-out family disputes. Unresolved disputes. Family secrets. Health secrets. Breast cancer. Any cancer. Body aches, heart aches, spirit aches. This is how they built their inner strength…carrying burdens upon burdens.
So when I look at these women with admiration and want to ‘grow up’ to be like them, I have to accept what will make me strong like they are. If I want to be a crying shoulder to some young lady twenty years down the road, I must be ready to build my muscles by shouldering those burdens upon burdens.
And suddenly, washing loads of laundry, making trips to the grocery store, packing lunches, reading one more bedtime story don’t seem like such trials to bear.