'Twas the night before school started, when all through the town,
the parents were cheering. It was a riotous sound!
By 8, kids were washed and tucked into bed,
Where memories of homework filled them with dread!
New pencils, new folders, new notebooks too!
New teachers, new friends... Their anxiety grew!
The parents just giggled when they learned of this fright
and shouted upstairs, "Go to bed! It's a school night!!"
Yes, school is starting tomorrow. Guess who is experiencing the dread and anxiety! Me! Aden and Ashlyn are young enough to not have a clue as to the milestone they have reached. It is the beginning of the end - of their innocence, their freedom of time and frankly, their oblivious view of the world in which they live. I am not trying to be pessimistic. On the contrary, despite one's half-full/half-empty outlook, it is quite realistic. For every first day of school, they are inching closer and closer to eventual maturity, responsibility and worldly understanding. It is my duty as their parent to ensure they meet this inevitable journey with confidence... and munitions. No, not the confidence and "munitions" that farmer Zeke spoke of in the Wizard of Oz:
Zeke: Listen, kid. Are you gonna try and let that old Gulch heifer try and buffalo ya? She ain't nothing to be afraid of. Have a little courage, that's all.
Dorothy: I'm not afraid of her.
Zeke: Well then, next time she squawks, walk right up to her and spit in her eye. That's what I'd do.
Though I would not put it past my feisty daughter to spit in someones eye (if coached by good 'ol Zeke!), I am referring to the confidence we have in Christ - in God's Word and plan for our lives - and the armor of God described in Ephesians 6:10-18.
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, 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, with is the Word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints..."
My children are heading into battle. With every first day of school, they are inching closer and closer to the frontline. Yes, the battle rages every time we turn on the news, meet new friends or even go to the movie theater. (And we are X-Men fans!) But sending our children to school eliminates our real-time ability to protect - and to charge - when necessary. When confined on school grounds, they must do that themselves.
Whether it be the well-intentioned teacher, the class bully or the recess playmate, both Aden and Ashlyn will be required to rely on their own knowledge, courage and faith to navigate scenarios in which these people may be the vessels used to tempt them to sway from God's Word. They will be required, at times, to hold on to the truth of God's power and promises (Belt of Truth: without which, there would be no place to put a sword), do what is good and right (Breastplate of Righteousness: we cannot expect the breastplate to stay securely fastened unless we remain true to His commands), tell of God's grace and love (Shoes of the Gospel of Peace: we are called to move; to spread the Good News), put their trust in Jesus (Shield of Faith: this is not just put on - it requires effort and intentionality to pick up and hold), have confidence that they have been delivered from the eternal death penalty of sin (Helmet of Salvation: the hope of salvation can protect our thoughts from our enemy's attacks and temptations to disobey God), and fight the enemy with God's own Word (Sword of the Spirit: used for close combat, the sword helps prevent us from being nothing more than heavily armored moving targets).
So, dread and anxiety? Of course. I fear I may always dread what experiences await my children, and I will most certainly always have anxiety. Did I prepare them well? Will they stand firm? Are they properly girded with the armor of God? Alas, I may not know the answers to these questions for quite some time. The unfortunate truth of parenthood: there are no semester report cards!
Yes, school is starting tomorrow. It marks a beginning for them; a start of a new grade. It is, however, the continuation of my responsibility to prepare them for battle. I will continue - until my last breath - to unconditionally love my children, unceasingly pray for my children and humbly teach them God's Word - including the utmost importance of Ephesians 6:10-18. I am just thankful that no matter the change in or advancements of our enemy's weaponry, the armor of God will always prove effective. Praise be to God!