I like a charming nineteenth century novel as well as the next person. But for serious escapist reading, give me a near-future post-apocalyptic dystopia every time. I want to see life stripped down to the bare bones, in scenarios where peopleís grit, character, and foundational beliefs determine their every move. The characters in these stories donít sit around and bemoan the state of the world. They sit around fashioning hunting spears or cleaning their semi-automatic rifles, as the case may be. Theyíre wide awake, well-trained, wily. They know their lives and their childrenís lives are in danger every minute, and they know what to expect from their extremely dangerous antagonists. They havenít given up, even though the odds are stacked in terrifying towers against them. Instead, they are working together, developing a risky but ingenious plan to fight and conquer their enemies.
These characters almost never argue about what color carpet to put down in their ready room.
The news is looking a little apocalyptic around the edges these days. Granted, thatís been the case now and then throughout human history. But when it all goes south in your little corner of the world, itís a global Armageddon as far as youíre concerned. Iím getting to my point now, are you ready?
Weíre at war, my sisters. They just havenít busted down our doors and hauled us off to prison yet. Oh, wait, yes they have, in many places around the world.
For a moment, put down the scissors with which youíre preparing a project for your toddlers Sunday School class. Lay aside the Christian book catalog or the carpet advertisement and think seriously about this question. Do you know where your armor is? Are you wearing your helmet? Is your sword dull and rusty? How strong is your shield? What about tactics: youíve been training, right? Keeping up with the latest developments in strategic offensive and defensive moves? Practicing the tried-and-true techniques?
Letís take a cue from some ever-ready fighters in the pre-apocalyptic world we live in. Think about what firefighters and soldiers do between battles with flames or foes. They cook great chili or munch on MREís. They play cards and nap and joke around. But they also clean their equipment. They repair worn or broken bits. They take training in improved procedures and new threats. They listen to older, experienced fighters tell about what they faced in times past and what worked to conquer the challenge. They drill and drill and drill until they can do what they need to do automatically, anytime, day or night. Spent much time on spiritual maintenance, repair, and training lately?
Listen to Paul describe our situation: ďOur battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.Ē
Pay attention as he gives us critical instruction on how to engage this enemy: ďtake up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.Ē (Ephesians 6:13-18 NKJV)
Some of my armor is in disrepair. Iím not as sure as I should be of how the pieces fit together, and I havenít practiced the effective use of my spiritual equipment nearly enough for it to be easy and automatic. I have lots of work to do. Perhaps you are in the same state.
Sometimes I forget weíre at war. I get distracted by to-do lists and shiny new toys and escapist reading. Our enemy, after all, is invisible and subtle. Itís easy to not notice what heís up to. Decide with me to watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave and be strong.
By all means prepare the toddlersí lesson. The babies are precious and must be taught carefully. Consider purchasing a worthy book. It might help you to fight the good fight. Talk about the carpet if you absolutely must. But first, look to your armor. The enemy is at the door.