My mother always asks me if I ever read anything “just for entertainment”. The answer is always the same. “This is my entertainment.” Looking at my most recent and current selection of books, I’ll admit it may look a little dismal. In no particular order, here are the last 10 books I’ve read:
- Fortitude by Dan Crenshaw
- The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx
- This Naked Mind, Control Alcohol by Annie Grace
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
- Insight by Tasha Eurich
- The Problem with Socialism by Thomas J DiLorenzo
- Why Jesus by Ravi Zacharias
- A Happier Hour by Rebecca Weller
- The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis
And my favorite go to book, the Bible, written by 40 authors over 1500 years with zero contradictions. Pretty impressive, I know!
I’ve always loved books. And I’ve always loved self development books or how-to books. The first book that I picked out on my own, that wasn’t considered a “children’s” book was called something along the lines of, Eating Pretty, or Pretty Eating, or something like that. For the life of me I can’t recall the exact title or the author. I have searched endlessly for that book, just for nostalgia purposes, with no luck.
I often wonder if it’s still out there, making dents in the young brains of today’s youth as it did mine. Or, has it been taken off the shelf, permanently replaced by an updated model? Is it still holding on, somewhere amongst the millions on Amazon, un-marketed, cold and alone in a little corner called forgotten? Something tells me, I’ll never know.
I can still remember the sleek and brightly colored cover. I felt so sophisticated holding it, or at least as sophisticated as a 4th or 5th grade student could. The book was about eating healthy and I never forgot the picture the author painted. They said to imagine opening your dresser drawer, and only having one outfit inside. This outfit, was your only outfit and you had to wear it every single day. Because of this, it was of utter importance to keep it clean, and consistently care for it. This outfit represented our body; the one that we had to live in forever, and was irreplaceable. Throughout my life, I have thought back to this analogy. Isn’t that amazing? For thirty something years, the words of another have managed to find a permanent seat on a shelf within my brain.
Every time I knew I was making a poor life choice, and there are more than I’d like to admit, I thought of that outfit. I thought about the permanent damage and wondered just how much it could take, and when it would finally ruin to the point of no return.
There are a lot of things that can damage our outfit. Besides the most obvious like drug and alcohol abuse, others that are easy to achieve are over-eating, or under-eating, being sedentary, smoking, vaping, not getting enough sleep, and working ourselves into the ground.
Though not an all inclusive list, that covers a good chunk of physical damage. Then there’s also the mental stress and pressure that we all have to some capacity. Often, these contributors are things we have the tendency to procrastinate with, throwing them in the pile of dirty laundry that we’ll do another day.
It’s so easy to put things off until tomorrow. We procrastinate because we don’t have time in the present moment or because we are dreading the task.
- The job search.
- The new diet.
- The break-up.
- The gym.
- The resignation.
- The apology.
- The financial inventory.
- The parent / teacher conference.
Then there’s those pesky “skeletons in the closet” that keep banging on the door, louder and louder as each day passes. The list goes on and on.
Each example is like a spot on our outfit. Some spots are larger than others, but regardless of the size, the longer we let the spot sit, the more likely it is to stain, and the harder it will be to get off. Let’s be real, most of us always have at least one load of laundry to do.
My outfit has been ripped, shredded, torn, and worn thin. Some years it has felt like it has only survived by a single thread. That eating pretty book didn’t address how to remove the spots and stains. It only talked about the preventative care for it. This is important information, but I think it’s safe to say that there’s probably a bigger audience consisting of those who need help with the repair.
It’s true that some spots and stains are permanent, making us more vulnerable to future damage. And though we might not be able to replace our one and only outfit, there is a protective layer we can add to it. I learned about this layer in my favorite Book. I read the following words in Ephesians 6:11, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”
I kept reading through verse 12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
I was drawn into these words. I’d always considered myself to be a warrior, but most of my battles were against myself, wrestling with my emotions, and the darkness I often felt creep up around me.
Verse 13 continued, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” I needed this, the ability to stand firm, which for me meant to not give in to the temptations of this world, and instead follow the breadcrumbs down the road less traveled.
Verse 14 – 17 read, “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,”
Each piece of armor mentioned has specific purpose, but together it protects us from spiritual pressures and the enemy’s ability to deceive us, to tempt us, and to turn us against ourselves. It protects against our fears, doubts, worries, insecurities, regret, and guilt. I wish I had found this earlier in life.
My late Aunt Maggie once told me to bring all of my problems to God and surrender them to Him. She assured me, “What you place at the foot of the altar, will be altered.”
Just as we bring our imperfect clothes to the tailor to be altered, God will alter all of our imperfections.
Thankfully we are not limited to one material outfit for our lifetime. We get to choose what tops and bottoms to put on every day, and I found the armor of God is the one accessory that goes with every choice, and can be worn in every season. It is the ultimate protection of my lifetime outfit, the one and only that we get.
So many of my favorite shirts and jeans have holes in them from being worn so much. As a kid, my Mom or Grandma would patch my holes or sew my buttons back on. As an adult, it seems we wear the damage as a badge of honor. A favorite tee shirt has become a dedicated “work” or “work-out” shirt. What has been torn the most gets pulled out for the tough jobs and the times when we have to roll up our sleeves.
Those clothes are the material example of the stains imbedded in my memories and imprinted on my heart, the ones I reach for when times get tough or I feel weak. They’re the inner strength and the dig deep moments. I reach for those stains to help me get through the times when I need an extra kick, whether it’s a personal matter or a killer CrossFit workout. I go back to the time of the spill and remind myself that I was strong then, and I’m strong now. I MADE IT then, and I’ll make it again in my current situation.
I’m happy to report that my outfit just turned another year older. Today marks 38 trips around the sun! It’s true that you get wiser as you get older. You form habits you previously rolled your eyes at, like carrying a stain stick in your purse. I’ve used a variety of brands, some doing more damage than good to the garment. There is one brand though, that I wish I found sooner, because it works the best. It’s called Jesus and He’s available everywhere.