Dear brave persisting ones,
I am in France on holiday (Normandy still enchants us), so there is little time for writing the July letter. However, in my last screed I did say that I would reflect on the ‘Armour of God’ mentioned in Ephesians. Paul did so enjoy his metaphors, didn’t he? I understand that completely, just as many will totally comprehend my personal temptation to extend a beloved pet conceit beyond the point where it continues to be useful. This is what Paul (if it was Paul) actually says:
Therefore put on the full armour 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.Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Some years ago I made the flippant but fairly accurate point that I felt my store of available clothing did not include many of these items. In my spiritual wardrobe I discovered the Y-fronts of weariness, the long-johns of lust, the drainpipe trousers of doubt, a pink plastic sword borrowed from a very small friend of mine and the balaclava of bewilderment. I think things have improved a little since then, but I never have been able to bring myself to actually throw away that balaclava.
A more recent and specifically informed reflection on this issue suggests that there are times when it becomes necessary to actually take off the armour of God, because it can become uncomfortably heavy and start to pinch. Someone we know, on reaching a point of profound weariness and disillusionment, was commanded to ‘Get straight up those stairs to your room, my girl, and put on the armour of God!’ A cup of tea and a friendly arm round the shoulders might have been a great deal more useful on that particular occasion. It really is necessary to bear in mind that, as I have already stated, we are talking about a metaphor. The application of these principles in real life needs to be considered carefully and in direct relation to the person or situation that we are facing.
Young David faced with the prospect of battling Goliath in the Old Testament would have known exactly what I’m talking about. For this task the king’s ponderously heavy armour was an alien hindrance. He needed just two things. One was a weapon he knew he could use well. That was his sling. The other was a friend at his side who could be trusted. That was God. As we all know, it worked. Next time the armour might come in handy. Maybe. Maybe not.
Having said all that, of course there are interesting and useful things to be learned from Paul’s list of military accoutrements. Being a mouthy git, I have lots of things to say about all six of them, but time is short.
One small observation about the ‘belt of truth’ before I go. It strikes me that a significant and familiar observation can be offered in this connection. If you don’t put your belt of truth on and tighten it properly, your trousers are likely to fall down. Embarrassment, ignominy and a sad sense of failure might follow. It happens to many in the church. It’s happened to me. I’m sure others would have a far more profound point to make on the same subject, but this will do to be going on with. (I should add that this applies equally to braces)
I must get back to my God-given task of eating French bread, croissants and jam, and drinking French wine. It is expected of me.
Adieu pour l’instant. Love to all, Adrian.