Hands down the worst thing about moving back to Arkansas thus far.
I recently retired from the military and moved back home to rural Arkansas. We bought a house and about 15 acres of land just outside of a small town nestled in the Arkansas River Valley, between the Ozark and Ouachita mountains.
We moved into the place this past summer and it looked like no one had tended the land in ages. So after some light mowing, trimming, and edging work to make the yard itself look presentable, I decided to reclaim my new backyard from nature.
I went out with my chainsaw, gloves, jeans, and a t-shirt ready to git r done! By the time I had finished that first day’s work in the July heat, I was scratched up a little from the briars and I was pretty dehydrated, but other than that it felt like a successful effort. I could look at the jungle and see that I had at least made a dent in it.
So I walked back inside to the conditioned air and the iced water feeling pretty good about myself and my accomplishments that day.
And that was that.
Until sometime around 2:30 am the following morning, when I awoke with what seemed like the worst itch I had ever had…in multiple locations!
I was scratching around my ankles, up on my stomach, my beltline…it was bad! I was thinking that I had fallen victim to one of God’s plagues and immediately started thinking about what I needed to repent of.
Then, as I turned on the lights to get a closer look at my predicament, it dawned on me. Something that I had forgotten (or more likely suppressed from memory) in my 25-plus years away.
These almost microscopic red mites and I had been enemies from way back in the days of my youth, when I sometimes spent from daylight to dusk exploring the woods and fields around my home. They hang out in these areas during the summers and await the unwary traveler. When they have an opportunity, they come aboard without requesting permission (rude and contrary to observed protocol) and seek skin, preferably somewhere they can nestle in between tight fabric, like socks and belted pants. They then commence using their acidic saliva to turn your skin cells to mush and then…they eat the mush!
I really dislike chiggers. They cause me to itch intensely for days after they bite and I usually get these gigantic, enduring red bumps from my encounters with them.
The thing is, though, if you are going to be in an area where chiggers are known to reside, there are things you can do to prevent them from affecting you. You can defend yourself against chiggers!
Now, I should have known there were chiggers awaiting me in that dense brush. And I should have been prepared to defend myself against their attacks. I should have sprayed myself with bug repellant, worn long sleeves, tucked my pants into my socks, etc. These things truly work and if I had only prepared myself, I could have been spared the pain and annoyance of chigger bites.
Thankfully, I learned my lesson quickly and did, in fact, take those precautions in the future, with much better results. Did I have a few bites every now and then during the months I worked to reclaim my backyard from nature? Yes. I still made mistakes on occasion, and it was mostly because I had been too hurried or too distracted to properly prepare myself for them. But it happened much less often, thank goodness.
And so that story kind of brings me around to something I have been thinking about lately, since my Bible Study class has been studying the book of Ephesians. In the latter part of his letter to the Ephesian church, Paul warns about the spiritual warfare Christians WILL, not may, WILL face in this world. And he says that in order to be prepared to defend against it, God has provided us tools; armor, in fact.
Ephesians 6:11 implores Christians to “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”
In other words, Paul is saying, just as Jesus did, that Christians WILL face trouble.
But he gives us insight into certain invaluable tools at our disposal. These tools will enable us to deflect the enemy attacks and mitigate, if not eradicate, much of that trouble.
As a Christian, I know this. I have read it. I’ve studied it. I believe that God’s Word is absolutely true. But sometimes, it seems like I forget how important it is to don that armor daily. I forget how much those chigger bites hurt, just like I forget how much it hurts to fall prey to one of Satan’s many schemes.
To know that I have the armor to protect myself and to not use it is just silly, and more importantly, it weakens my walk with Christ. Satan is going to come after me. This world is so backward and evil that it makes my skin crawl when I think about it for too long. I’m reminded of it almost daily. And it is out to get me; it’s out to lure me into something that leads to no good end.
God knows this. He cares about me. He wants to protect me from it. So, He has given me HIS OWN armor and it is fully sufficient for my protection. For instance, I have the shield of faith to deflect the flaming darts of the evil one. And I have the sword of the Spirit (God’s Word) to attack the enemy’s plans. Paul lists all of the accouterments in the latter part of his letter to the Ephesian Church and each piece is vital to protecting one’s spiritual health.
So, I have all of this armor to prepare me for the battles that I am certain to face and God reminds me to get up each morning and make a conscious effort to don every last piece of it, because He knows how much his people need it; need him.
This world can be pretty dark at times. Satan’s schemes can subtly slip under our defenses and nip away at us if we aren’t fully suited up and prepared for them. Thank God that we have his armor. Now, if we will only USE it!
Armor of God
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” (Eph. 6:10-18a ESV).