I began to look at life differently in January of this year. I came to the conclusion that my life was at a precipice. I honestly felt I was going to go further down into my own self-induced drama/depression, or I could reach for a tether, an anchor, a way to stay grounded. I think all of us have gone through one of those moments when you realize you need a change in order to survive as your best self.
I watched a video today which said that when you keep thinking the same things, you hard-wire your brain. Those thoughts become almost like a programmed computer. And if you want to change yourself, it is difficult to truly change who you are. By your thirties you are pretty much you. And here I am, in my mid-60s, realizing I want to be different than I was at the start of 2023, let alone 30 years ago.
To that end I chose to reach out to a friend, who I knew was a woman of deep faith, and we began to do Bible Study together. Our first one, which was completely my choice, was “The Armor of God” by Priscilla Shirer. I cannot fully share in words that will make sense how this changed everything. My perspective is new. My faith is new. Yes, I retain all that I have embraced up until now. But I have added to my “deposit of faith” in a new way. I felt like I was opening a caged area inside myself. Or loosening the ties on a very tight corset. I was finally breathing in a way I had not done before. I felt the breath of the Holy Spirit, for perhaps honestly, the first time in my life.
I have never denied the Trinity. Not in the least. But somehow my focus in my faith journey has been on God the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ. Both of whom I have always dialoged with, freely, in my mind and heart and soul. But somewhere inside me there was a very tight cage. A corset with many tight strings. And I realized I had not been able to fully inhale, in perhaps, forever.
This study spoke about the Shield (of Faith) we take up, and the Helmet (of Salvation) we wear. The Shield is to be kept damp with the tears we shed (my interpretation) and the Holy Spirit. The Roman soldiers would wet their shields before battle. It made it more difficult for the arrows (Satan) to penetrate the wood. They would form these “turtle” formations where each soldier would raise his shield (of Faith) in just the right way, so that no one was exposed to incoming arrows (community of believers). And if one came through, they had their helmets (of Salvation) tightly in place. Of course, wearing the Breastplate (of Righteouness), kept in place by the Belt (of Truth), and their feet shod with their boots (of Peace).
I realized I had not been arming myself with all the things I have needed in this life. And that Helmet of Salvation was so key for me. The Lord has adapted it so it covers our minds, our ears, and our cheeks. It comes around our mouths. It encapsulates who we are; our perception of ourselves. And it helps us to be our better selves. We wear that helmet and nothing gets through…especially when we are surrounded by our full Armor of God.
Most people just put their feet on the floor and start their day, going down the same mental pathways we are used to traversing. And therein lies the key to change. We have to mentally break away from that pathway. Take the road less traveled. Begin again before our feet ever touch the floor. “Thank you, Lord, for another day! I am breathing! Let’s do this…” is what I am trying to embrace. And believe me, it is not easy. For me, I wake every day in pain. It’s my back and my shoulders. Some days I walk straight to my medicine drawer in the bathroom and put this pain cream on my back and shoulders. So I can even tolerate putting on my slippers. And then I make my way out to drink some coffee and do my morning blood sugar reading. Trying to change my brain when my body is yelling at me with all these arthritic pain signals is tough. I am trying to change how I treat myself and am hopeful new avenues in my basic self-care will enact changes in my body. (Ever hear of Magnesium Spray? It’s a new thing I am trying. Google it!).
And I am now doing a study on the Book of Haggai entitled, “Take Courage” by Jennifer Rothschild. I am in awe of her. She has been blind since she was 15. Her demeanor, her joy, her charisma is a wonder to behold. And she is squeezing every last meaning out of just 36 verses of Scripture. Haggai is the second-shortest book in the entire Bible. But boy, oh boy, am I learning so much about me and how I react to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. What am I praying for? What are my expectations of God? Who am I carrying the rock for? (From a great African Folk Tale). It is soul-searching and I love her approach so much. Another great Bible Study to enlarge my perspective on my faith. God is endlessly patient with me. Thanks be to God for His Mercy!
And so this first quarter of 2023 has seen some changes in me. I am learning so much. I am sleeping far better than I have in months, and I am panicking almost never. God has graced me with the Gift of the Holy Spirit that I never knew I was missing. I end each day in prayer. I wake each morning trying to start with a prayer of thanksgiving. I am in Scripture daily. And I have learned to be a fervent, directed prayer warrior. As it says in Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” And in Ephesians, “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 when the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Eph 6: 12-13).It is upon us to learn to arm ourselves so that we can stand against all the evil of this world. And I am learning how to do that better and better every day.
Ephesians 3:14 “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” This is one verse out of many that gives me so much peace. My family, your family, we are all named by God in the heavenly realm. He knew us in our mother’s wombs (Jer 1:50) and he named us. He knew us and He knows us. Every family. All my kids, all my grandkids. All of us. And in Deuteronomy we are told: “Give generously to Him and do not let your heart be grieved when you do so. And because of this the Lord will bless you in everything to which you put your hand.” (Deut 15:10). And so we dedicate all we do and who we are to God, and He will bless us. In our hearts and in our lives. We give ourselves to God for His glory. It is the sole reason we exist, to glorify God. Wow.
I wish you peace. I wish you comfort in God. Glorify Him in all you do. I’m just amazed that I can still learn and still grow and still be a daughter of the King. His mercy endures forever.