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Taking off the Armor

“People never light a lamp only to put it under a basket or under a bed; they put it on a lampstand so that whoever comes in may see the light.” ~ Luke 8:16

Clearly, Jesus meant this in a deeper than literal way. Metaphorically it means that we were all born as a light to the world and shouldn’t hide it. But we do. We (metaphorically, of course) pull baskets over our heads, or hide under the bed, or build walls, or put on armor. Why? I think fear is at the root of most of our reasons. We're afraid of being hurt, judged, ridiculed.

We're trying to protect ourselves, and so we put on our armor of aloofness, anger, addiction, acquiescing, arrogance, busyness, humor, withdrawal, negativity, being the center of attention, judging and more.

I realize it can be tempting to start labeling people we know as we think about this, but the reality is that we all use armor at different times, and we can probably all relate to most of them.  The point is for us to look inside ourselves and see how we protect ourselves, when did it start, what does it cost us and our relationships, and what  would it take for us to take off the armor at times.

This takes some self-awareness, because I think for the most part we’ve worn our armor for so long that we don’t even see it anymore! We’ve all heard someone say (usually after they’ve been critical or mean), “Well, that’s just who I am.” That’s a cop out… that’s checking out of your own self-investigation.

Sometimes it is easier to see the armor that others wear because we don’t seem to be able to really reach them and connect with them at a deeper, more meaningful level. Think about your children, or your nieces and nephews, or your grandchildren… someone you’ve watched grow up from the time they were a baby. They were born letting their lights shine, being uninhibited, being loving and affectionate, kind, curious and imaginative. Slowly the world taught them to not show so much of themselves… don’t trust so easily… don’t love so easily… don’t share your thoughts so easily.

I know I’ve watched my kids get hurt, struggle, have challenges in life, and I’ve watched them put on layers of armor to try and protect themselves. It makes me sad sometimes, because I know what their light looks like! I know who they are underneath it.

God knows who we are under our armor, even if we’ve forgotten. Now, maybe you’re thinking to yourself that your armor serves a pretty darn good purpose and you don’t see why taking it off is important. And, I’ll agree that there are probably situations where your armor is a good thing. But there are some very good reasons to take it off, too.

First of all, armor gets heavy. It’s burdensome and exhausting sometimes to keep up that front. We probably don't even know the emotional and spiritual toll it takes on us to hide our light. Second, as Mark Nepo said in his book "The One Life We're Given, “We often take our walls with us and think we’re free, even though we’re clunking around in a suit of armor that makes life burdensome. Armor, no matter how thin or clear, keeps the air from touching the skin. It keeps aliveness from touching the heart.” Third, it makes meaningful interaction and deep relationships challenging. Finally, if our light isn’t shining, we aren’t being who we were created to be, and I believe we limit the ways that God can work in and through us.

Perhaps we need to have conversations with those who know us best and ask the question: can you tell me what my armor is and how it affects you? The spiritual task is not about surviving by putting on armor and protecting ourselves from more wounds, the spiritual task is about freeing our authentic selves so that we can live more fully, so that the light that we’ve dimmed or hidden can shine again.

Love & Light!

Kaye