This is the message from Sunday, August 6, 2017. The scripture reading is from Ephesians 6:10-20. You can listen to the weekly messages online at https://princeofpeace-er.org/worship/sermons/. They are typically published on Mondays.
Grace and peace to you from God our creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
You are a child of God. Uniquely and wonderfully made. It is all that really matters in this world. That you are a child of God, uniquely and wonderfully made.
It’s what I tell my children. They are words that I often repeat to the youth. They are often the words that are subtly spoken in each message. They are words that I often remind myself of.
These words have become my motto. The words that describe the way in which the Holy Spirit lives in me. The words in which I experience God and see how God works in other people’s lives. Sometimes, it is difficult to remember these words. To use them. To experience these words for myself or for other people.
Often times, many times, something else gets in the way.
It is sin and it is evil. They are things that we don’t like to talk about, acknowledge or even discuss. But the Letter to the Ephesians, puts it right in front of us. We no longer have a choice but to acknowledge it, discuss it, and in the end, stand up against it wearing God through Jesus on our hearts.
Sin is defined as behaviors that we do that cause us to hurt our relationship with God, with one another and with ourselves. Sin is a behavior or an action that we do intentionally or unintentionally. Consciously or unconsciously. And the effect of that action or behavior is that our relationships with God, someone else or ourselves gets damaged. And without the forgiveness or reconciliation that comes through Jesus, the damage often becomes unrepairable.
Sin may have officially originated in the Garden of Eden, when both Adam and Eve decided to make a choice and not trust the relationship that they had with God. And so, they ate from a tree which God had asked them not to eat from. But they did it anyway. Their action hurt their relationship with God, and it hurt their relationship with themselves, with each other and ultimately with all of creation.
But at the core, Adam and Eve themselves are not bad or evil people. They are still children of God, uniquely and wonderfully made. They just made a “bad choice” in their actions.
Every day, we live like Adam and Eve. We have actions that cause hurt, distrust, and disappointment. But it doesn’t mean that we are rotten apples, bad to the core. Because no matter what, we are all children of God.
And it is here, where the deep hurt, distrust, and disappointment lie. We are the first ones to tell ourselves that we are indeed rotten apples, bad to the core, and that sin is how we are made. It is the language we use to shame ourselves. It is the language we use to tell ourselves (and others) that we are not good enough, perfect enough, strong enough, beautiful enough…and that list goes on and on.
And so we put on armor or Persona, the Greek word for “stage mask.” We put on armors or masks to protect ourselves from any form of discomfort. The armor makes us feel safer. The armor makes us feel stronger even when we grow weary of carrying its load.
And when “we’ve worn it long enough, the armor molds to our shape and is ultimately undetectable – it’s like a second skin” (Daring Greatly, page 113).
But the armor that we put on gets heavier and heavier to wear. And eventually, it becomes so heavy that it hurts physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. And eventually we start telling ourselves, “I can’t take the mask off now – no one knows what I really look like. Not my partner, not my kids, not my friends. They’ve never met the real me. I’m not even sure who I am under here.”
And so we continue to build the armor, to strength it and to re-enforce it despite its weight, its strain, and the immense damage that it causes us. It becomes the sin that we carry around with us daily – damaging the relationship that we have with God. The God who made us and created us and calls us beloved. And it damages the relationships we have with others and with ourselves, because we no longer show up and be seen for who God truly created us to be.
We learned as a child, especially in our middle school and high school years, about creating the armor. We learned about things such as foreboding joy, perfectionism, and numbing – all ways in which we continue to build up the armor.
Brene Brown, a vulnerabiltity and shame researcher in her book, Daring Greatly, describes “foreboding joy,” “perfectionism,” and “numbing” in these terms.
Foreboding joy is the notion that we are not to tempt fate. That we are always waiting for the other shoe to drop. That we are just to wait a few moments, and it will begin to rain or storm again. And so we build up armor to brace ourselves, because we never feel safe, certain, and sure enough. And to us feeling “joy” can often feel like a set-up (page 118). Because “it’s easier to live disappointed than it is to feel disappointed. It feels more vulnerable to dip in and out of disappointment than to just set up camp there. You sacrifice joy, but you suffer less pain” (page 121).
Perfectionism also builds our armor. It is the twenty-ton shield that we lug around, thinking that it will protect us. Perfectionism is not self-improvement. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth. Perfectionism is the belief that if we do things perfectly and look perfect, we can minimize or avoid the blame, judgment and shame. Perfectionism at its core is about trying to earn approval. (page 128-129).
And then there is numbing. One of the most frequent numbing behaviors we do is to keep ourselves crazy-busy. We have bought into the idea that if we stay busy enough, the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us. (page 137). Numbing ourselves is a way to feel disconnected with others. To not let them see you for who you truly are. And we numb ourselves in different ways – from staying too busy, to working all the time, to watching television to drinking and doing drugs.
Feeling disconnected can be a normal part of life and relationships, but when coupled with the shame of believing that we’re disconnected because we are not worthy of connection, it creates a pain that we want to numb. We just want it to go away. Numbing ourselves can lead us to isolation and a sense of powerlessness.
“As children we found ways to protect ourselves from vulnerability, from being hurt, diminished and disappointed. We put on armor; we used our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors as weapons; and we learned how to make ourselves scarce, even to disappear. Now as adults we realize that to live with courage, purpose, and connection – to be the person whom we long to be – we must again be vulnerable. We must take off the armor; put down the weapons, show up, and let ourselves be seen” (page 112).
And in the Letter to the Ephesians, it tells us to take up a different set of armor then the one we build up with things like shame, foreboding joy, perfectionism, and numbing. Instead, we are to put on the whole armor of God. So that you will be able to stand against those powers of evil that weigh you down – the powers of shame, disconnectedness, and powerlessness.
Instead, we put on the armor of God’s love and grace and mercy that come to us through our Lord and Savior Jesus. We put on the armor knowing that we are truly children of God, uniquely created and made. That by showing up as who we really are, we can and do make a difference in this world for the sake of others just as Jesus showed us and taught us. And that by showing up as who we really are, wearing God’s armor, we become truly free.
And instead of using weapons such as shame, perfectionism, disconnection, scarcity, and other hurtful words that tell us that we are not good enough and that at the core of who we are is bad, we use God’s weapons.
God’s weapons are joy, peace, gratitude, love. God’s weapons inspire creativity, generosity, and hope. When we wear things like truth and righteousness and faith, we no longer wear defensive armor or use defensive weapons. We use weapons and armor that help us stand firm in what God has made us and called us to be. And we are then willing to share love, joy, hope, and gratitude with others. We begin to reconnect with God and with others, and ultimately with our true selves once again.
We are called as followers of Jesus Christ to practice daily joy and gratitude, love and forgiveness, creativity and service. That is our armor. That is God’s armor.
Thanks be to God! Amen.
For more information on Brene Brown and her work, visit her website at http://brenebrown.com/.