Maybe it’s because I watched the end of USA’s new show Tough Enough before I went to bed, maybe it’s because God is trying to tell me something — whatever the reason, I woke up early this morning wrestling with God. I struggle a lot trying to understand what He’s saying and what we’re supposed to do. Probably a lot of my problem is that I don’t like what He’s saying and/or I don’t want to do what He is telling me to do.
Here’s the situation. The church we have been attending is at a crossroads. They have grown significantly and are looking at building a very large addition. We are not members so we have no vote, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have an interest in the whole thing. They have had a couple of meetings — they call them C.L.U.E. (I think that stands for Communicate, Listen, Understand, Encourage) meetings — to explain the needs and the options. Bud went to the first one. I was going to go to the second one (I really was!) but a lengthy phone call that came in shortly before I was to leave kept me from it.
The reason I was going to go to the second meeting was because God had laid on my heart this image that I wanted to share. I’m not a public speaker so I may not have gotten up the nerve to get up, but still, I felt like it was from the Lord. The Bible uses a lot of imagery and metaphor to teach us practical life lessons, and this would fall into that category.
Faith becomes a buzzword when talking about moving ahead on a big project. People say things like, “We need to take this step of faith,” or, “We need to have faith that God will provide.” But if you look at the armor of God, faith isn’t a leap, it’s a shield.
Ephesians 6:16 Besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one.
In both high school and college, I took Latin. Call me weird, but I love Latin. When you’re learning Latin, or any foreign language for that matter, you also learn a lot about the culture that language is native to. I learned a lot about ancient Rome through taking Latin. I translated works of Catullus, Ovid, Seneca and Caesar, to name a few. Caesar wrote about wars, so I learned about Roman soldiers. I can’t help thinking about Roman soldiers when I read in Ephesians about the armor of God.
We tend to picture a gladiator when we picture a Roman soldier, but the armor of a gladiator was far different from the armor of a rank-and-file soldier. A gladiator’s shield was small and round, meant to be easily manipulated in the ring, because the attacks could come from many directions. A soldier’s shield was large and rectangular. The size was roughly from the knees to the chin of the soldier.
This shield was large and heavy, but served a very important purpose. When a company of soldiers, called a century, usually numbering from 80-100 men, went into battle, they could form something called a “turtle,” with most men hoisting their shields over their heads. The men in front or on the sides held their shields to protect the body. The overhead shields partially covered the heads of the men in front and behind, overlapping in a way that made it virtually impenetrable. The men had to work as a unit in order for it to be strong.
I really believe this is the image Paul had in his mind as he wrote about the armor of God. The shield of faith is meant not to protect the individual, but the whole church. So much of Ephesians is talking about the church and our inter-relations with each other. Why would he switch to talking about a lone soldier in combat?
When considering moving ahead as a church, the leap-of-faith people need to take care not to rush forward without the rest of the unit. It would make the whole unit vulnerable for attack. Likewise, the resistant-to-change people need to not drag their feet so slowly that they get left behind because that also leaves the group vulnerable.
So this was what I wanted to share at the C.L.U.E. meeting — the importance of everyone being on board with whatever plan they choose to move ahead with.
But I was wrestling with God because I want my way. I’m a small town girl and a small church person. I would like to see the church stay smaller and split off to form new congregations in nearby towns. People drive from all over to come to our church, but I think we can minister more effectively when we worship in the town where we live and can invite our neighbors to join us.
My knees don’t want to bow. I don’t want to submit if I don’t get my way. Such a stubborn fool am I.
But today I will hoist my shield of faith over the body of believers God has placed me in. I will pray for them as they vote. And I will move with the century of soldiers when they choose a direction.
Two things in closing:
- An updated old prayer known as A Collect for Peace — O GOD, You are the author of peace and lover of harmony. We stand in knowledge of eternal life in You, and we know that in Your service is perfect freedom. Defend us in all assaults of our enemies, so that we, as we trust in Your defense, may not fear the power of any adversaries, through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
- A scripture — Ephesians 4:1-3 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.