My kids are into sword fighting these days. I blame it on a recent obsession with Stars Wars.
Sticks of bamboo make quick swords and they battle it out on the street. Girls, boys, little ones, it doesn't matter. It's fun to wield the weapon.
I smile as I watch them play, thankful for the gift of sunshine, imagination, and siblings who love each other.
From my place on the porch I can't help but think, "I hope they learn to fight with real swords."
"For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Hebrews 4:12
That sword we have? Not only is it our first line of defensive, it's also our one offensive weapon. It's all we've got.
"Take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Ephesians 6:13-17
It's not that the other things — the defensive weapons — aren't important. They are. They protect our bodies: our heart, our mind, our feet. But as in any competition, a strong defense doesn't mean you win. At best, it's a draw. If you want to win, you have to fight.
"The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
Oh kids. My precious kids. I love you. I willingly choose to sacrifice many things for you. I give my time and energy to you in order to prepare the soil of your hearts. I set other dreams aside for a later chapter in my life so I can fully live out this dream now. I miss out on friendships, experiences, opportunities, and small pleasures so that I can tend to these six gardens: pulling weeds, throwing out stones, and breaking up the fallow ground. Because the seed that comes your way? That is the Word. And when it falls into your hearts I want you to be ready to receive it. The difference among the four soils wasn't went into it, but rather, the condition the soil was in.
And so I work diligently, sometimes joyfully, always prayerfully, chucking stones here and chopping down thorns bushes there. When that Word hits your soul and soil, I want you to be ready.
Do you know why? Because when that seed takes root and grows unhindered, it isn't just growing something good to look at, something to boast about. It's growing your weapon.
Life is hard, little ones. I do my best to shield you from most of that pain now. Your little plants are small and I won't throw you into the storm before you are ready. Your roots are young and your leaves fragile. No matter how much people say we should expose you to the "real world", a gardner knows he must protect his plants.
I have to be honest, though. Storms will come. Life is hard. It's full of pain and sorrow and hurts so deep you feel like you can't breathe.
"Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." Acts 14:22
One day that pain will be be gone. Dealt with. Over.
But while on this earth? As long as your years in those precious blond-headed bodies remain, it's going to be hard.
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33
And when the hard times come, you have to be ready to grab that weapon your daddy and I have been helping you grow. You have to grab it and fight. Wield that thing. Slash through the lies. Attack the half-truths.
What you need most in life is a Coup de main: a kill by a single, smooth, quick thrust or cut.
When you feel alone and sad, you need a coup de main:
"The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed." Deuteronomy 31:8
When you worry about money and how the long list of expenses will be paid, you need a coup de main:
"So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34
When you wonder what you have done wrong to have so much hurt, you need a coup de main:
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 1 Peter 1:6
When you feel discouraged that all your hard work is amounting to nothing, you need a coup de main:
"Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary." Galatians 6:9
When you wonder if God made a mistake in giving you your personality,you need a coup de main:
"For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well." Psalm 139:14
When you fear no one sees how hard you work to bless others in the only ways you know how, you need a coup de main:
"For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints." Hebrews 6:10
When you get frustrated that you can't be the person you want to be no matter how hard you try, you need a coup de main:
"For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want." Romans 7:19
When you question whether God can ever forgive you, you need a coup de main:
"As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us." Psalm 103:12
When you fear that that you wasted too many years focusing on yourself, your desires, and your hurts, you need a coup de main:
"Then I will make up to you for the years That the swarming locust has eaten, the creeping locust, the stripping locust and the gnawing locust, My great army which I sent among you." Joel 2:25
When the weight of all the hurt and pain and neglect threaten to overwhelm you, you need a coup de main:
"And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." Revelation 21:4
Oh little ones. I love you. I love you with a love so deep that words have yet to be created that could express this raw and fierce emotion. Perhaps that is why Christ demonstrates (present tense) His love for us. When love is this deep, words just aren't enough.
And because I love you so, I want to teach you to fight. I want to teach you to pick up those swords and do fierce battle. I want you to be able to cut through the lies, the discouragement, the self-pity, the worry, the fear, the disappointment, the sin, the betrayal, the despair, and the lack of trust. Attack with the weapon you hold in your hands: the living and powerful Word of God.
It's not just a book full of nice ideas and pithy sentiments. It's a weapon. And like any weapon, you have to learn to use it. Learning comes by doing. Instructional guides, YouTube videos, and the stories of others who have used a weapon might be beneficial at times. But at some point, you've just got to get out there. You've got to take that sword, tuck your fear into a pocket, and start your advance.
You're little now, but your fighting days aren't too far off. I'll keep tending that soil and we'll keep practicing for battle. Because one day, probably not long from now, you'll be standing there minding your own business when the enemy will issue a challenge.
Our job as parents is to help you be ready to answer.