Column: On ancient armor, quarantine and certain victory


Photo credit: Lena Jones

A piece of armor lays on Lena Jones’ bed. Jones uses her final column to explore how one Biblical quote brings her comfort in challenging times.

By Lena Jones, Columnist

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor 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 armor 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.”
~Ephesians 6:10-18 (NIV)

When I stop bothering to make my bed in the morning, I know the monotony is getting to me. In these moments, not only do days mesh into one another, but my actions seem to overlap, blurring the lines between productivity and utter uselessness. It is in these moments when my mind must fight my body’s inertia to ensure I get the one thing I need –– a sound battle strategy.

Over the past few weeks, quarantine has come with many new considerations. How to care for my little brother while attending online classes and what to do with the time I no longer need to commute to school are two of the numerous questions I never thought I’d encounter. My family has been blessed with safety, so I may contemplate these things. If I seek out the answers all by myself, the questions will overwhelm me, but my greatest asset against stress has always been my armor. Or rather, my quest to accumulate the armor. Let me explain.

Each morning, I subconsciously don my helmet and open the curtains to look outside. Sadly, a profound feeling of dread is expanding nowadays, pressing down upon the joggers I see passing my window and the skaters rolling down the street. I wonder who they are and what I could do to stop them from coming in contact with worldly evils.

Most of the time, I feel like the best I can do is practice social distancing and keep them from coming in contact with me, but there are instances when I wake up and realize my room is in disarray. As I begin to tidy the space, my mind clears. The beginnings of a plan form in my mind, a plan which declares that the best offense may well be a good defense.

I search beneath my bed for the armor.

First, I uncover a belt, well-worn from prior struggles, yet golden in the light. While considering its luster, the constant drone of news segments comes to mind, and I begin sifting through the information the anchors provide. My family members in Georgia must contend with the reopening of businesses in their state to “restore economic stability,” even as the likelihood of this new disease eventually ravaging their Black communities skyrockets. With the belt around my waist, I exhale, knowing that truth will always bring healing and stand the test of time. Those who disseminate misinformation will eventually face the greatest historian, and one day, the truth will find us all.

Healing is inevitable.

I continue my search.

How did a breastplate end up beneath my desk? In any case, I try it on and find that I must grow into it. This awkward fit actually lifts a weight from my shoulders, reminding me that the time I spend in quarantine will be but a fraction of my most formative years. If I cannot pillage each minute for every last bit of productivity, at least I will walk away with a keen awareness of why I fell short. More than this, the breastplate protects me from self-criticism by reminding me that I don’t have to be enough on my own.

Despite the stagnation of our current circumstances, I will continue to grow.

In my haste to find the next item, I step into a pair of shoes. Suddenly, peace falls upon me, and the search becomes less rushed. The calmness focuses my mind until––aha!––I pull the shield out of a drawer. It seems that, while worrying myself silly over college decisions, I’ve allowed the shield to accumulate dust. I brush it off with one hand and dial the number for my youth group with the other. The youth pastor smiles widely as he assures me he’ll pray over my decision, and the young adult leader says she is expecting me to update the church later on. The fiery sting of uncertainty departs from me.

I am alone in my room, but I have never felt so seen.

I always wear my helmet, so the final piece to find is the sword. As the only offensive tool in my arsenal, you’d think I’d have looked for it first. Well, one of the most important aspects of this weapon is actually its hilt –– that’s where the reminder is, written in plain and simple terms: clean your room. I can easily find the sword by sight. Today’s search was about looking for the invisible items that are so easy to set aside: truth, goodness, peace and faith.

The sword reminds me to continue fighting the battle for my mind, an endeavor that has never felt more necessary. To win, and to remain useful to the joggers and skaters going past my window, I must be prepared to defend myself against that encroaching dread. That’s where the armor comes in.

Facing dangers seen and unseen has taken on an entirely new meaning for many of us over the past couple of months. We must do what we can to protect others and ourselves as we press on, but I may rest well knowing that all is not lost. After taking inventory of the resources we all have to both survive and persevere during this season, I am certain that the greater war for humanity is already won.