armour or flesh?

A  little while ago I posted about my preparation before going on to the streets and hanging in the coffee bar or pub. The time of prayer was quite Paul-ine in its method and based on the God’s armour passage in Ephesians 6.

I have a new spiritual director and when she heard this, Sister Martha, a Dominican nun in Greenwich, seemed to raise her eyebrows (that may have been my imagination) and made a simple observation of surprise that I was praying for protection and using the armour imagery. It was a brief moment which I should have dwelt on, but I allowed it to pass.

This has been niggling at me for a while but it has not been until quite recently that I have had time to reflect, and I guess it is the approach to Christmas, and in particular the pending onset of Advent that has caused me to wonder what Martha may have been questioning and why I have started to become niggled with what I was doing.

I think it may be summed up in the word vulnerability.

I am questioning whether I have been preparing myself as well as I could or whether I have been concerned too much with my own safety. I wonder whether I should be praying for armour, or asking for sensitivity and eyes and hears to hear what is happening. Armour, it seems, sets up a false human made barrier and does not allow me to be me. If I am wanting to genuinely build relationships for the sake of just building relationships then I can’t really do that through protective armour … can !? If I go wearing God’s armour I don’t go on equal terms, and if I don’t go on equal terms then I can’t build genuine relationship. If I can’t build genuine relationship then I ask what is the point of going at all?

I have been thinking a lot about Advent over the last few weeks as we seek to try and encourage people to take a pause and reflect as they pass through the cathedral during the Christmas Dickens weekend.  There is something about the God child that shouts to me of vulnerability!

Here we see the Son of God, with no protection, totally at risk and relying on the protection of his created creatures to ensure his safety. Jesus in the flesh … quite literally and uncompromisingly. Vulnerability in a total sense – all of God’s plan invested totally in the vulnerability of this child. No armour to protect, no hoards of angels to fly in heavily armed to ward off risks … just a 100% human, 100% fallible human God child.

I think as we follow Jesus through the gospels that this vulnerability appears over and over again, culminating in his trial where he refuses to defend himself. He stands silent in face of false accusations. We see again a vulnerable Jesus whose immediate destiny is in the hands of those he created. There is no self protection here at all let alone talk of God’s armour.

I am coming around to thinking that my preparation before venturing out needs to be more an acknowledgment of my vulnerability and the fragility of who I am with prayers concentrating more on helping me see where God wants me to be and who he wants me to be with rather than prayers of concern for my protection.

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