When Danger Lurks, Are We Ready?
Feb 28, 2016 03:53AM
By Bonnie Lyn Smith
I watch my son through the front window of the dojo practicing his Kensho-Ryu Kenpo karate forms and self-defense. He doesn’t hesitate. It doesn’t even matter if it is his friend. When the arms go toward his neck, he takes the enemy down.
What drew us to karate when he was 6 years old was really just his obsession with reading. We had entered a library contest, and he won a free month trial at our local dojo. Considering he was not interested in anything athletic and his face was almost always buried in a globe, a book, or a calculator, we thought this might round him out a bit. We had heard it would match well with our parenting goals of self-discipline, respect, honor, etc. The benefits have gone beyond that in terms of stamina, self-esteem, balance, endurance, confidence, etc., but that’s a story for another day. We believed in it so much that we later introduced our other son to it at the same age.
My 15 year old now stands 5 feet 11 inches with a second-kyu brown belt and is a far cry from the little uncoordinated boy performing his first belt test years ago. He is swift, sure, and strong. Sometimes if I catch him off guard by putting my hand on his shoulder, he will swing an arm to deflect me. We’re working on that. I mean someday his wife may not take too kindly to that. Know your enemy, Son! It’s certainly not me.
Even so, I am so pleased to see his reflexes respond well to perceived danger.
How are our reflexes?
When danger comes our way, are we ready, or do we have to dust off our armor? Are we frantically assessing the situation, reacting in slow motion because we have not practiced our “forms,” our defenses?
I had this experience recently when I had trusted that in a mutually difficult situation, other people involved would have my best interest at heart, along with their own, when crisis came. They didn’t. I was so shocked. I pleaded for a different outcome, all the while thrashing about, caught completely unaware that such harm could be done to me by those I loved deeply. I tried to give every benefit of the doubt. I flailed about like a fish half out of water looking to fall again into the sea to catch my breath. I was unprepared. My guard was down.
I became complacent.
I forgot the amazing ability we have as humans to harm each other, myself included. I forgot that while we let our guard down, we can either hurt others or be hurt.
1 Peter 5:8, ESV, Apostle Peter instructing
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
I don’t know why these folks did what they did. The details don’t matter but the principle does.
I wasn’t ready, and as a result, what happened to me easily could have been returned by me. I could have retaliated. In situations with other people, I have at times reacted too quickly and returned unkindness.
Even though I was late to the game in this case, I knew to “suit up” quickly.
Why? Because I remembered Ephesians 6 this time:
Ephesians 6:10-18, ESV, Apostle Paul exhorting
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints…[emphasis mine].
This rescued my heart from a plunge into despair. My heart did not darken. Shatter? Yes. Sadden? Sure. But ugly and bitter? No.
What does this look like in application? Isn’t this just figurative, poetic language? Do we really fasten on this armor?
Yes, actually we do.
I often begin by praying:
“God, please help me not to sin in my pain and anger. Please forgive them, for they know not what they’ve done (if that’s true; it’s not always true). *Please pour your Holy Spirit into their hearts and incline them toward You, first, and toward me, only if it’s Your will. You are the God who makes beauty from ashes. Amen.”
*If they know Christ, I pray this. If they don’t, I pray He makes Himself known to them in a mighty way and that they respond to Him.
See, the thing is: We aren’t really wrestling with people in these situations. I mean we are, but they are merely the flesh and blood wrapped around a spiritual war.
How many times does the enemy of our soul use those closest to us to catch us off guard, throw us in a different, distracted direction, so our eyes leave Christ?
How many times does he use us to do the same?
I find it incredibly comforting that it’s not about flesh and blood. It depersonalizes it a bit. It doesn’t take responsibility from those participating in ugly behaviors, but it gives us proper context.
The armor is to put our eyes on Christ, so that they remain there and don’t wander. My best days are when I pray on each piece of this armor and then live it out:
- Righteousness (Psalm 51:10, ESV, Create in me a clean heart, Oh God, and renew a right spirit within me.)
- Gospel of Peace
- Word of God
- Constant prayer (in the Holy Spirit) and supplication
- Alert with all perseverance
Our God offers us many tools and provisions to make it through attacks of any kind, be they relational, temptation, persecution, undeserved defamation of our character, etc., but, according to the Apostle Paul, we must be “alert with all perseverance.”
The next time, I want to be more ready, more fortified, more protected by God.
Karate is self-defense, not offense.
So is armor.
Like my son’s martial arts program, actively wearing this armor not only ensures more self control and practiced, automatic, appropriate defense in responding, but it also guards my heart from speaking harm and launching offenses against others.
I don’t know about you, but I have no desire to be a pawn in a spiritual dart-throwing contest.
I want to be ready when danger lurks.
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about parenting, marriage, mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, the healing cloak of Jesus, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
Her book, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, offers anecdotes on all of these subjects and Scripture for each situation as well as Book Discussion Questions for deeper exploration.