Ephesians 6:11-18 New International Version (NIV)
11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
I have this idea for a comic strip or a short cartoon.
Don’t get excited, it won’t be something that “goes viral.”
But I can see it in my head so clearly. It’s me. It’s what I’ve been doing for years; and, here at the end of “Day Five of the Rest of My Life,” it’s a bit tragic to look back on what I’ve been doing so wrong.
I’ll tell you what the comic strip would look like. Try to picture it:
I get up in the morning and the Holy Spirit is waiting there, perched on the side of my bed, smiling as I open my eyes.
“Ready for the day?” He asks.
“I got this,” I yawn and step past Him to go make the largest pot of coffee my coffee maker will perk.
Next slide is me, bulldozing through my day. Each challenge is met with my heart “in the right place.” I’ve got to be awesome for God. Each person I meet, each addition to my schedule, I have pleasing Him in mind. I go at it hard, but frustration, discouragement, and failure are always right at my heels.
Next slide, me falling into bed, exhausted that night. “I did this day for you God. I tried hard. I had a lot of bad attitudes and things didn’t always go well, but I gave it my best.”
Next morning, the Holy Spirit is waiting there again, perched on my bed waiting to get the day started.
“Ready?” He asks, stepping towards the kitchen.
“No, no. You stay here. I’ve TOTALLY got this. I’ll do better today. I’ll show you. You’ll be proud of me, you’ll see!”
I read my Bible like a student cramming for a test. I try to soak it all up quickly and hope I’ll remember it throughout the day. (Are you still picturing it?)
And off I go again. Running around with a Savior Complex, thinking that if I don’t “be Jesus” to each person I meet, I’ll be a disappointment to Him. Gotta be awesome. Gotta be awesome.
Day after day after day after day.
For oh so many years.
Always trying so dang hard to make Him proud. Always feeling like I can’t get past myself. Full of sin; and, after so many years, tired of fighting a losing battle.
That’s where I was last week. Really, really tired of fighting.
“Are we there yet?” I was asking Him. “Can’t you just come back? I’m not a fighter. You know that. I don’t like conflict. I don’t like battle. I want to be done. I’m exhausted.”
Then, late at night (after a long talk with my sister and some really good devotions), He spoke. He showed me that little cartoon in my head.
And you saw it right away, didn’t you? You recognized instantly what took me 36 years to notice about myself. I kept wanting to “be great” for Him. I kept wanting to show Him that I loved Him and that I could be what He wanted me to be. I had it so mixed up.
So, here we are on day five. For the last five days, I’ve been waking up extra early and praying out loud. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never been that kind of “disciplined Christian.” But I’m at the end of my rope. Something has to change and the change is me getting a little less sleep. I’ve been praying first thing, committing my whole day to Him. I’m done leading. I’m done leaving Him at my bedside to go show off. It took 36 years, but I see clearly now that I CAN’T.
I can’t please Him in my own strength. I can’t be who he wants me to be. It’s like I excepted the grace of His salvation; and then, (though I couldn’t have admitted it to you) I lived a gospel of works. I thought hard work was the way to go.
These last five days have been so. . . relaxing. So fulfilling. So evident that I can’t be the boss of my own heart. I’ve had less tension and conflict because I’ve been putting on the armor of God each morning. The fight that was flaying the skin from my heart isn’t as hard as I was making it! It was only hard because I was fighting it unarmed and mostly alone.
1. I’ve been putting on the belt of Truth – asking God to open my eyes to His truth. To see my heart in the light of His truth and to show others His truth.
2. I’ve been putting on the Breastplate of Righteousness—the piece of armor that covers my heart with His Righteousness not my own. The Breastplate of Righteousness assures me that the Father is pleased, nay thrilled, with me just as I am because He sees Jesus’ blood when He looks at me.
3. I’m holding up the Shield of Faith that God promises will extinguish all the “flaming darts of the evil one” (and let me tell you: it is working!!! I’ve had NO DARTS for five days. No thoughts about how inadequate I am or how flawed I am or how tired of the battle I am. None! Just by “praying on” this spiritual shield!)
4. Then I put on my Helmet of Salvation and it covers my head, my intellect, my thoughts with the fact that I belong to God and that Jesus paid my debt. When my thoughts are grounded in salvation, the rest of my day is worship.
5. Next I put on the Shoes That Are Ready With the Gospel of Peace. I ask God to direct those shoes all day long. I commit to following instead of leading. I ask him to pick my schedule and to be Lord of every part of my day, especially my evenings with my family.
6. Finally, I take up the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. I’ll be honest with you, I’m just getting started in this venture. I haven’t done much with my Bible yet and I haven’t memorized anything new this week, but I’ve got big plans 🙂
I wish you could see how well it’s working. I wish you could know me well enough to know how tormented I’ve been on and off throughout my life. How bummed I’ve constantly been with how much farther I still had to go. I wish you knew how much my need to be great and unique and perfect has grayed my colorful spirit. My sister Bethany knows. She could tell you about all the long excruciating conversations. “Why aren’t I awesome yet? meh meh meh meh meh…..”
I’m not sure why it took so long to figure this out, and I don’t presume to think that my battles are the same as yours. Maybe you fight different demons. But, if any of you are fighting the demon of needing to be wonderful, needing to be someone or something and feeling like you aren’t, then learn from me. We can’t lead. We can’t be awesome. It’s the best thing we have going for us, our need for Him. He is awesome, and He is sitting by our bedside in the morning just dying to lead us through the day He has planned.
I’m going to keep you posted on this. It’s only day five. I feel like I’m just starting out on a new journey. But I feel so relaxed. I haven’t packed a thing and I’m sure I won’t be great at it and that’s totally ok.
Here’s what the Bible translation “The Message” says about our armor:
Ephesians 6:11-18The Message (MSG)
A Fight to the Finish
10-12 And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.
13-18 Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.