Barbie costumes, Armor, and Strength

I remember few Halloween costumes growing up as a kid. There’s only one photo of me in one (hi second kid over here), and it was taken by the school during lunch. One of the ones I remember vividly though is of Barbie. If you are a child of the 80s and early 90s you’ll remember our costumes didn’t exactly resemble the ones of today. By that I mean it was a plastic mask and essentially a painted trash bag you slipped over your school clothes. The trash bag often was painted to give you the idea of a costume. But it was a trash bag and a flimsy plastic mask held on by a string that inevitably broke 5 minutes into the night.

What brought this to mind was not the fact that today is Halloween, but what I was reading in Ephesians 6. As Paul starts to conclude his letter we see nestled in the very last paragraphs his instructions on arming ourselves for daily battle as believers. He lists out exactly what we should be arming ourselves with, and that it should be the full armor of God. We cannot go into battle with just a helmet and shoes, or a shield and a belt. He is pointing to the very real need to have a complete armor to face the things which wage against us daily.

Many of us, if we grew up in the church, have heard of the full armor of God. We might even remember flannel-graphs being pulled out and we dress up a figured with the items. But as I read the garments for battle I kept thinking of that stinkin’ Barbie costume. The image kept coming to mind as I tried again and again to focus in on what Paul was saying.

Then I went back a verse to see these words anew:

Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength.

(v. 10, CSB)

You see I too often try to strap on all my battle gear and armor without taking into account that it’s of my own making. That I am essentially putting on that trash bag and plastic mask for battle daily rather than leaning into the strength of the Lord. I am taking plastic facades of my own weakness to fight against principalities and powers that know exactly what will take me down, and yet I seem to be fine with that. I choose my own lack of strength instead of allowing myself to be strengthened by the Lord and given His strength. I put on trash bags instead of righteousness, flimsy strings instead of salvation.

So when Paul’s words struck anew about fashioning each day with the full armor of God it’s not in my strength (or true lack thereof) but in the Lord’s that I put it on. Not in my former self, that was all too dependent upon me to take care of things, but in my new clothes those of a new self…one that recognizes the need for the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, the sword of the Spirit and all the rest for each day. Not more than today but just the armor of today specifically for battle. My armor looks to be more prepared and strengthened in what it should be rather than that Barbie costume I tried to hide behind.

Encouraging Men

“I don’t need a knight in shining armor. Just a good guy wearing the full armor of God.”

That quote gets at the very heart of many women’s lives as believers who are single. We aren’t looking for a man to save us, because we have Christ already. Many of us are independent and providers within ourselves.

Simply put, we are seeking good guys who are choosing to arm themselves daily in God, just like us. I may be speaking for a minority of single women in the church, but I have a feeling I am not. We desire to see you lead, Christian men. We pray over you and for you. I know many women who are praying, just like me, for our future husbands even now.

We are making that choice each day to surround you with prayers of protection, discernment, guidance and wisdom. Yes you can sweep us off our feet, but when you plant us back on the ground it’s on the firm foundation of Christ. Over the last many years of being in the church and being single, I have found we tend to congregate around the fact there are more women than men in the church.

Just recently there were whispers that “you can’t not get a girlfriend” by going to a singles Bible study. While part of me laughed, I couldn’t help but think it was true. But ladies I think we need to also take ownership when there’s a lack of men in the church, or even serving in the church. We can find it easier to sit back and bemoan that fact or we can start to pray for God to raise up men in the church, bring them in from the community to build one another up and the church.

We want the men who are putting the armor of God on, but are we putting it on ourselves in prayer for them? Are we encouraging and engaging them in a way to prepare them for battle? Are we choosing to intentionally pursue friendships rather than relationships with men in order to serve the church? Are we praying for the guys who are in the church now to be the men we want to lead?

These questions are just some of the ones I have had the last few weeks as I have encountered the reality that men need prayer and community just as we women do, it looks different and we don’t fully see it. But they need us to be watchful in prayer, arming ourselves with encouragement and support for them instead of backhanded jabs at “women doing it all” in the church.

True, we don’t need the knight in the white horse to come galloping in to save us but we do need men who are buckling up and strapping on the armor to go to battle each day for God’s kingdom. So let’s encourage them in ways that are eternally focused rather than presently-minded.

A Lesson from Taylor

I am not a fan of Taylor Swift, never really have been. We got off on a bad foot, and I just never became a fan. But I have tried, truly to appreciate the fact she does write from a young woman’s heart and she puts on quite a stage show (from what I have had people tell me).

Photo courtesy of Fashion Gone Rogue
Photo courtesy of Fashion Gone Rogue

Cut to last week’s GRAMMYs. I was enjoying the red carpet when she popped up to talk with Ryan Seacrest. Instead of changing the channel I left it on, to give her another shot…after all, she’s roughly the same age as many of my students and it helps to see her in that light instead of a heartbroken teenager. Towards the end of the interview, Ryan asked about her dress (obviously) and she said it was actually made of heavy laden chain-mail. That’s a full length shot over there ——————————————–>

She commented that it was disarmingly heavy to wear, as it was not faux anything but rather the mesh you’d get on chain-mail.

That moment is when I gained respect for Taylor Swift. That right there.

Why you ask? Why would a dress of all things garner some respect from me, someone who had long since written her off?

Because she is sending a message, one that we should all take note of. She’s been blasted, taunted, and poked fun at. (Often warranted, the hair flip during the performance later on would be an example) Yet she throws on some armor and out into the world she goes. Did you catch what she admits to as well? It’s heavy…surprisingly hard to carry.  She could have chosen another dress, probably from a thousand samples that were sent her, but she chose that one.

Do you put thought into what you are putting on each day? Do you prepare for daily life by dressing appropriately? By draping yourself in armor?

I know I don’t, but yet, in Ephesians Paul tells us to explicitly…

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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. 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. (Ephesians 6:11-14, NIV)

We put so much thought into what we wear, based upon our schedules, our plans throughout our day. But do we take the same time to think through the armor we are girding ourselves with? Do we realize we have an armor available to us daily to clothe ourselves in? I know without a doubt many days I rush through preparing for my day instead of being intentional to think through it.

We are gifted this armor, for daily use. To stand. Not to fall, not to stumble, not to even weaken us…but to STAND. How formidable of an opponent would the devil see you today if you were standing in full armor ready to do battle? It is heavy to carry, to wear in each moment, but how much more so are the consequences of going into battle unarmed?

Let’s learn a valuable lesson from Taylor today and thrown on our best armor that is hanging in our closets. To me, it wins Best Dressed every single time.