Who really fights the battle?
Ten years ago, Keith bought me a piece of jewelry that I wear often. It is a white abalone cross and shield. We were going through a particularly volatile time in our lives for many reasons. Each day I would get up and say, “I am weary, Lord. I just can’t keep fighting these battles and still do the work you have called me to do as a dance minister and author. I am so weary.”
During different parts of the journey, I took out the abalone pendant and held it close. I would envision myself standing under and clinging to the blood-stained cross of Christ with such force my arms ached. I saw me as needing to hold His shield of protection in front of me as a means of deflecting the external unpleasantness. It became quite heavy, and I would tell God at the end of the day how weary I was of it all.
I really believed it was up to me to do the work of holding the shield in front of me while physically leaning into the cross for the stability needed to keep standing. And in my efforts, I became exhausted to the point of becoming defensive and sometimes lashing out from a heart full of resentment.
Then one day while doing my devotions, and holding my necklace, God clearly said,”Back off. You do not need to use the cross and hold the shield out as weapons against others. You need to examine your own heart and see what is making you so fearful, angry, guilty and allowing hurts to turn to resentments.”
“Am I doing that Lord?” I asked.
“Are you not my child? I need you to understand that the shield and cross symbols are for your assurance that I am your protection at all times. And I loved and do love you enough to go to the cross for you. All I ask is that you hand Me those lies that you are choosing to believe and that are hardening your heart.”
In my darkest times, I removed my blinders and saw my defensiveness was based in the fact that I believed what was not true and I was going to great lengths to prove otherwise. I reflected upon the fact that the cross bore the weight of my past failures and temptations to retaliate. I saw for the first time that God was asking me to inventory my own attitudes and heart; then guard my heart and trust fully in Him.
This verse showed up in my devotional materials off and on for several weeks. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23 NIV). The word guard took on a whole new meaning as it became clearer every day that I needed to wear that cross and shield as a reminder that the One who protects me was/is doing the battle.
Today I still wrestle with unkindness and untruth all around me. Who doesn’t in this world? But now I more fully accept the truth of the cross and hand the shield to the only one who truly can protect me. He is able and willing to defend me, even from the condemnations of my own voice and heart that can lead to me hurting myself or others if moving from a defensive heart riddled with resentment.
Copyright October 2021, Laura L. Padgett Montrose, CO
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