Today is an important day as I feel compelled to share with you what well-dressed Christian children wear to bed. Inspired by today’s Ephesians reading, a mother has designed the “Armour of God Pyjamas”, complemented by the whole armour of God blanket and either a Anna or Samuel doll with matching headband and beanie. The pj’s consist of a helmet of salvation, a night shirt of righteousness and belt of truth as well as a pillo of faith for the little angel to put his or her head on. All this is ensures God will protect the child as she or he sleeps.
Bizarre – I never cease to be amazed at how far people will go to justify their actions. Perhaps a cleric who wears red shoes has no right to comment!! The mother says she doesn’t want her child to feel lonely, to remember God is with her, even when she dreams.
While I wonder at the effectiveness of the Armour of God pyjamas, isn’t this the truth for which we are all searching, to find the cure for loneliness.
Patch Adams, whose taste in everyday wear is way more exaggerated than either my redshoes or the aforementioned pyjamas, says; ‘The medical professionals are a lot more comfortable calling it ‘depression’ than calling it ‘loneliness.’ And he should know.
As a young man of 17 or 18 years he had his mother commit him to a mental hospital because of his reaction to an uncle’s suicide not long after his father’s death. In the hospital he recognized two things, both the same, not only was he lonely, most of the people were in that hospital not because of their mental illness but because of loneliness. It was their unattached presence in the world which placed them in these places and resulted in them being diagnosed with medical categories.
For Patch Adams: ‘All of life is a coming home. Salesmen, secretaries, coal miners, beekeepers, sword swallowers, all of us. All the restless hearts of the world, all trying to find a way home. It’s hard to describe what I felt like then. Picture yourself walking for days in the driving snow; you don’t even know you’re walking in circles. The heaviness of your legs in the drifts, your shouts disappearing into the wind. How small you can feel, and how far away home can be.’
On leaving the hospital he committed himself to eradicating loneliness, if not eradicating it, at least making people laugh. He says ‘in Russia most of the hospitals don’t have any pain medicine, they don’t have any money. So if you’re with kids with cancer, they can have metastases to the bone; which some say is the worst pain a human can experience. So a mother can be in a room with a child who hasn’t stopped screaming in five months. …85% of the time I walk in there as a clown they’ll stop screaming.”
He takes seriously the admonition of Paul in Ephesisans when Paul says, “Put on the whole armour of God’ for everyday of his life he wears his clown outfit from the time he gets up until the time he goes to bed, he sees patients, runs workshops, lobbies big business and governments in full clobber – the whole armour of the clown.
He knows who he is and he is that person all the time – there is no wavering from the truth about himself. While he admits to no religion, ‘he calls a friend his “god” and the love of other people, God’s spirit.’ He fully understands the truth Paul is giving to the Ephesians, you cannot live in this world and flourish unless you clothe yourself with yourself in all your glory. And if you do so you are not alone.
For Paul that glory is found in the Word of God, Jesus, who came into the world leaving behind his glory in heaven to take on the whole shape and form of humanity. It is in the truth about this living word of God who spoke God’s love into the world and who’s righteousness and obedience sets us free and whose resurrection stands us firmly in the world as the beacons of hope, that we have been welcomed into the family of God and made one with him who is one with God.
We are home.
We can complicate this passage by stripping down each part of the amour as described and providing prescriptions for each in such away it becomes all too hard. We can theologize on the meaning of each point Paul makes and set ourselves up with a conundrum which trips us up, not sets us free.
Yet, for Paul it really is as easy as getting out of bed and getting dressed. Now for one of the people who live in our house this not as easy as it sounds – we need to look at what we are doing, where we are going, what the weather is going to be like, what shoes go with what handbag which goes with what lipstick – it can take some time to get dressed!
But for me, every morning I get out of bed and my major decision is not what colour shoes I put on but which pair of red-shoes best fits the day. The shoes are always red (except for most funerals). There is no question. Paul says each day put on the armour of God which is Christ, the resurrected life of hope and fulfillment of all Gods promises, with Him as your day wear you will stand firm.
Paul says it is all there for you, simply put on Christ and you have in yourself the fullness of God and the fullness of humanity. You have communion – communion with the trinity and communion with humanity. You belong to all but yet you are still yourself. You share in all yet remain truly yourself. You share in the joys and tragedies, the success and failures, the health and ill health of all but remain free to be who you are. You are the image of Jesus who put on the humility of man to remain always the glory of God.
You do not succumb to those Michael Leunig calls the awfulisers, or Paul calls the principalities and the powers, the people around you who have allowed themselves to become victims of the world. People who put on the whole armour of God are over-comers and find a path through life which not only lights up their own lives but the lives of all they encounter.
This is the answer for loneliness, for it is in relation to others we discover who we are and that we are not alone. For Christians this begins with our relationship with God through Christ and continues in our relationship with others proceeding from our relationship with Christ. As Patch Adams models it, it is in our engagement with the world that we discover we are not alone and we have all we need to survive its horrors and its joys.
Home for Patch Adams, ‘is both a place of origin and a goal or destination. And the storm? The storm was all in my mind. Or as the poet Dante put it: In the middle of the journey of my life, I found myself in a dark wood, for I had lost the right path. Eventually I would find the right path, but in the most unlikely place.’
For us that unlikely place is in the shape of an ordinary man with an extraordinary purpose, to speak us into our home where we belong. ‘Put on the whole armour of God’ which is Jesus the living word of God and step out in to the world firm in your faith and the knowledge that you belong in it and the world to come.