Saturday, September 29, 2012

Shield of Faith

"FinAlly, be STRONG in the LORD and in the sTrenGtH of His MIGHT. Put on the whole armor of GOD, that you may be able to sTanD against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against FLESH & BLOOD, but against the rulers, against the AutHorities, against the cosmic powers over this present DArkNess, against the spiritual forces of EVil in the heavenly places. In ALL circumstances take up the sHield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming DaRTs of the evil one." (Ephesians 6:10-12, 16)

Do you ever have those days when you can't even lift a gallon of milk? Criminy, I don't think there's anything quite so humbling as not being able to open your own bottle of Pibb. Days like that are mercifully fleeting for me, but the feeling of helplessness they bring isn't quite as short-lived. "Come home with your shield or on it." Legend traces that old adage back to Sparta. It was a command given to soldiers by their wives and mothers, meaning either come home victorious or dead. (A fleeing soldier would likely drop his shield in order to run faster, and a dead or wounded soldier would be carried home on it).

We're at war every day right where we sit, and man oh man, some days I sure can feel it: physically AND mentally. Satan, though defeated by Jesus’ death and resurrection, hasn't given up his bid for our souls. He can't win the war, but each battle with him―each battle with ourselves and our ailments―is an opportunity to give him one more soul, one more life, one more person that ought to belong to God.

So he works hard to make us miserable. 

He makes us doubt, cry, feel sick, and miss our loved ones so badly it literally hurts. He takes away everything we thought we needed. He knows our weaknesses better than we do, and he longs for our eternal death, for us to turn away from God, to forget God in our pain and misery, to hate God just like he does.

He tries to make us drop our shields and run away.

Feeling particularly weak today? Yeah, me too. I can't lift a gallon of milk, how am I going to lift a shield? But our shields don't depend upon our grip alone. It's fused to us in our baptism. God holds on to us, and that grip is strengthened through the Word of God, the Eucharist, and prayer. And thankfully our shield isn't made of steel. Our armor is made of faith, truth, readiness, salvation, and the Spirit of God. Our armor is made of the blood of our Lord and Savior, who sacrificed Himself for us: the truest, bravest, and most honorable of soldiers who took up a fight that none of us could win for the sake of nothing but pure, perfect love.

Who would drop a shield made of something so perfect? Lots of people. Millions, in fact. You've gotta admit, steel or no, it gets heavy from time to time. Our shields aren't what people expect. They won't save our earthly lives. They won't grantee us money, good health, or even happiness here on earth. That's not the kind of darts our shields can extinguish. We still get sick, and we will still die. But like a good soldier, we live and die honorably for something greater than ourselves. We die with our shields in hand, knowing the war is over, knowing we fought the good fight, knowing death is not the end but the beginning of eternal life with God in Paradise because Jesus, too, was carried home on His shield.

We will all be carried home on our shields of faith one day,
victorious in death.

Suggested verse to repeat when you feel like you can't lift your own arms is from Revelation 12:6a
PRC buddies, remember to breathe!
"And the great dragon -------> 5 count inhale
was thrown down." -------> 5 count exhale

(Some days, especially migraine days, I'm unable to look at either a book or a screen.
The online Bible site has a great audio feature).

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