Those first 12 months of being parents are a shock. Things you think are easy; like getting into the car, take on a whole new life of their own. When you do it together as a team, when you share the load, when you get some sleep, when you can afford the cost, you can laugh about it, enjoy the crazy. When you have to do it alone, without sleep, without money, without laughing, it can be overwhelming.
Ephesians 6:10-20 says,
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
I knew my husband, who had serious chronic fatigue at the time, wouldn’t be much help with the baby. So I put on the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of truth and the boots of peace. I took up the sword of the Spirit and held forth the shield of faith and I walked into the valley.
The first part of the valley was quite pleasant. I loved having my son Toby, at home with me. He was gorgeous and his company was very welcome after a lonely season. Being a mother gave me new purpose and I always like new things and a baby is fascinating. My new neighbours, who I swear, God placed there just for me, were wonderful, and I loved my days. Not owning a second car meant I walked everywhere pushing the pram. As much as I could, I got out and about and my body was recovering.
The nights I endured, believing they would get better. Those ridiculously long, first baby feeds I used to read my bible & parenting books. I did everything I could to include my husband in all that was going on, and I made myself get back into the routine of dinner together and listening to his days. We got back into sex so that our marriage would stay strong and made it a priority. For a few months things went well. Toby was healthy and growing and although my husband was unwell and working 6 long days, he was cheerful.
But then, when Toby was 5 months and 3 weeks, I fell pregnant with our second son, Luca. It was like a bomb dropped on us. The bliss evaporated. I was exhausted; the living underwater with weights on your ankles not breathing kind of exhausted. I was breastfeeding, pregnant, not sleeping and I had; no help, our own business, a sick husband working 6 long days, no car and no money for a babysitter or any outings.
But I was wearing my helmet.
We have a skatepark near our house and recently a Dad went over the handlebars of his son’s BMX bike, head first into the halfpipe not wearing a helmet. He fractured his neck and skull, broke both his cheekbones, broke both his eye sockets and lost the sight in his left eye and needed cognitive rehab.
Afterwards his wife said, “He’s remorseful. He told me he’s never worn a helmet before, but he’s never changed his mind so fast on anything in his life.”
Helmets save lives. The Helmet of Salvation saves lives. It saved the life of our marriage.
Even though I was in the process of ushering new life into the world. Even though I was surrounded by blessing. It all seemed way above me. I was down in the valley of the shadow of death. Joy was way up high on the mountain tops, with all the other people. I felt very isolated, very depleted and very angry. I have never been that angry before or since. It was a black time. My husband will tell you that I hated him. I didn’t. But it felt like I did. I certainly found it very hard to forgive him for being allowed to rest and sleep and still be ‘officially’ more tired than I was.
We continued to have sex because, praise God, we were in the habit again. It was our forgiveness catalyst. Words we couldn’t utter before sex we could usually smile sheepishly about afterwards. It was the tension breaker.
And we continued to pray. Prayer was the tension breaker with God. Feelings that would remain even while I waded through my bible reading would dissipate when I prayed, when I connected to Jesus my saviour.
The helmet of salvation deals with our thoughts. It brings them continually back to Christ and off ourselves. He is the centre. He is the focus. He is the light we look towards.
I can tell you I needed to wear that helmet every nanosecond of the day. The thoughts of hopelessness coming out of my mind needed that helmet to stop them and turn them around before they got too far.
I soooooooooooo wanted to be out of the valley and on the high hills.
But there is no short cut to the highest hills, maybe to the low hills but to get onto the high hills there is always a long slow climb. If I wanted to sit down at the table God had set for me on the hills I had to go through the valley and up the mountain.
I couldn’t pass the journey on. Except to God. And that is exactly what he wanted. God wanted to work with me again.
Matthew 11:29-30 says,
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
How good is it that God is humble! Because I was a mess. I needed a gentle hearted God to bring me through, to teach me, to build my capacity, water me, feed me until I could bear fruit out of this trainwreck. That is what God does. He is the maker of ways in the wilderness. He is the provider of water to the thirsty.
Isaiah 43:18-21 says,
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland
The wild animals honour me, the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen,
the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.
It is often the worst of times not the best of times, times that God uses to shape us, that we look back on with praise and grateful hearts. It is in the valleys where we learn the power and purpose of the amour of God, in the wildernesses and the wastelands. If I hadn’t accidentally fallen pregnant, if we hadn’t had no money, if my husband hadn’t still been sick, if we hadn’t felt so alone and struggling and I hadn’t been so tired we wouldn’t have prayed all the prayers we prayed and we wouldn’t have made all the decisions we made to stick with God.
Our faith was being tested. At that point we could have divorced each other and walked away from God. Instead we leant into each other and went to Scripture. We went to prayer. We stood on the rock of Christ in the middle of the crashing waves and we began to listen and to question. We only have one life. What does God want from us? What do we want? Why do we want it? and How are we going to get it? We had some choices to make and I am so glad we stepped out believing in faith before things got better because things got worse before they got better and it took us 10 long years to get out of the baby stage.
You don’t wear a helmet unless things are dangerous and life is dangerous. I always tell my kids, ‘Helmets on the handlebars are useless. You don’t look cool with a smashed in face.’ But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there were days when I had a smashed in spirit.
God is a healing and repairing God. His mercies are new every morning. If I don’t wear my helmet one day he forgives me and gently reminds me the next morning, “Put your helmet on, my daughter.”
I am so grateful for his protection.
When have you been grateful for the helmet of Salvation?