Ancient Wisdom, Post-Modern Longing Part 9

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Co talla forum, ré n-dul it láma, mo chuit, mo chotlud, ar méit do gráda.

Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight.

The breastplate’s function is to protect the soft parts of the body. Limbs can be lost and damaged without loss of life. There are bones around the head and around the heart and lungs but there’s nothing to protect the guts. My oldest daughter referred to this region as “the bleedy/breathy area”.

Where I am most vulnerable God must be the most impenetrable.

Where I am most vulnerable God must be the most impenetrable. I assume that this “location” varies from individual to individual to some extent. For example, I continue to be frustrated at how the need for approval remains my soft spot. I know for a fact that this is not “the” soft spot for others, but they have different ones. However, the common denominator is that it is a source of vulnerability – and not the good kind.

Not the author’s breastplate.

Our bleedy/breathy areas, regardless of what comprises them, are the places where the enemy seeks to strike us. It just makes sense in a fight, and he is no fool. This is why Peter can say,

“Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.”

1Peter 4:12

He doesn’t say we have to like the trials. He doesn’t say it’s good. Just don’t be surprised. We should expect our weakest parts to be our enemy’s preferred target. Moreover, if we expect it, we can take defensive measures. But how?

Common wisdom would seem to suggest fortifying the soft spots. Strengthening the muscles, or if it were somehow possible, grow some bones around them! The first idea is fine to the degree it works – but even well defined muscles are easily penetrated by a sword thrust with enough hate behind it. The second idea is, of course, simply wishful thinking. Too many of us spend our lives simply wishing we weren’t what we obviously are.

To wield a sword properly is to be vulnerable at one’s softest point…

Another tactic might be to simply hide the soft spots; keep them out of the fight altogether. The problem with that is, the body is irreducibly complex. You simply can’t remove your torso from the fight without removing the rest of you. Additionally, the sword is paired with the breastplate because if one is to wield the sword offensively then one’s breast will be exposed? They must go together. To wield a sword properly is to be vulnerable at one’s softest point, then. Damn.

So, this begs a question. Am I wasting my time trying to strengthen, or even eliminate that soft spot rather than simply securing a breastplate to it and trusting that? Scriptures refer to God as a breastplate and shield countless times.  Perhaps our most vulnerable parts simply need to be acknowledged for what they are, addressed to the extent that human responsibility demands, but then simply shielded behind God’s presence.

After all, the song is clear: a plea for God to BE our shield. It’s not about me getting stronger or better. It’s about trusting his strength and goodness more.

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57 year old husband of 31 years, father of two, drumming Gardner.