Groggy in the morning, and I read this verse, tapping my finger against the page:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. (Ephesians 6:10-11)
I read it while the steam curls from my coffee mug, with my planner plopped sideways, open on the table. I reach down, letting a weary hand slide over my exercise t-shirt. Armor, that’s what I need. I’m looking at a day spent in carpool and working at the computer, folding laundry, scraping bits of food off of dirty plates, gathering my children’s nearly-grown bodies up in my embrace. And He says I need armor. Not, I suspect, the carefully erected facades behind which I hide sometimes; not the appearance that I’ve got it all in hand. That would be like going to battle in a Halloween costume, complete with foam washboard abs and ginormous biceps. As long as I look like I’m strong, right? Taking a long draw of hot coffee, I rub my face with my other hand, trying to wake up. For a moment, I sit back and absorb the slashes of sunrise-gold in the early sky. I can’t help but chuckle. Right now, I look like a tired, middle-aged woman getting ready to slog out some sweat. But for all my faded lack of fluff, at least I’m appropriately dressed. When the time comes to pick myself up out of this chair, I’ll be ready.
Riley slides in next to me without a word and gazes toward the bird feeder, where a sparrow warbles.
Ah, better, I think, noticing her denim shorts and easy t-shirt, navy with a faint steel-colored anchor printed in the center. Her first day as a junior camp counselor, she’d descended the stairs in a gold-sequined skirt and a cream-colored blouse—beautiful; stunning, even, but not very practical for running around outside in the heat. That first day, I had known better than to ask her to change clothes. Riley selects her outfits by rotation, without applying any context. In advance, I might have prepared her for what she would need, but not right in the thick of her morning anti-anxiety routine. It hadn’t even occurred to me that night club might be the next look in her stack. And that morning, she had gotten up early and red-eyed and just a tiny bit on edge anticipating a new experience. She had politely refused her usual breakfast in favor of a bowl of yogurt, which she had eaten in small, tentative scoops. She was nervous, but trying carefully to hide it. Today, she looks calm and even more beautiful for her comfort, her hair backlit by the sun, soft and thick against her cheeks. Today, she’s ready.
Something simmers, something I’ve just read, a phrase—fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Yes, today she’s fitted with readiness; with Peace.
And then I know that this is my advance conversation, because I’ll not have time or ability to manage a change of clothes in the thick of things. God’s timing is always perfect, and gently, He parents me, laying a massive hand over me, swallowing me up in His grip. He is telling me what I need to do to be ready and at peace, to stand firm against the devil’s schemes, against the unknown and bitter assaults that will be part of my day, even the ones I don’t immediately recognize as something sinister. Because the truth is that I’m never just folding clothes or driving a car or cooking a meal. I’m living and breathing and loving and thinking and tasting and mulling and creating and serving. And this is war—not against flesh and blood…but against the powers of this dark world. Does any good soldier go into battle in their pajamas, without weapons? Or better yet, knowing my enemy prowls like a lion (1 Peter 5:8), knowing he drools over my family, do I really want to be caught off guard?
I press my hand flat against the Word in my lap. I think not.
A sly predator waits until the hunted creature forgets the possibility of danger, and my enemy loves a good ambush. So, loving me, my Father takes the opportunity to discuss my wardrobe before the day even grows hot. He speaks to me of truth and righteousness and readiness, of the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit. He reminds me to be alert, now. To pray with this in mind, for all the Lord’s people.
He turns my head to the shining child beside me and helps me see how very unwise it could be to let my preparation for the day become rote, how much more beautiful His children become when fitted with readiness and His peace. And because He is a good, good Father, I turn my face toward the sun, and I enter the fight well prepared.