This is the scene where young shepherd boy David decides in faith to fight Goliath, who has threatened the armies of Israel. When the king and army that tells him “No, you are not a trained soldier and you are too small and weak” finally relents when David says “if none of you have the faith God can defend, I do. Let me fight,” they hastily try to place armor upon him. David tumbles, bumbles, and can hardly move. He will surely die fighting in such a get-up. So he takes it off, goes in the clothes that are natural to him, and with faith in God wages the battle. And wins.
As I read this story this morning, I am struck at how often the world at large and even the church tries to put us into outfits that do not fit. I remember as a young minister learning the ropes being taught a model of ministry that fit the evangelical pastors who trained me but often felt fake and false for me. I remember turning points when I began to realize there was more than one way to do the Lord’s work and if it did not fit who I was in Christ, perhaps I needed to lay that bulky armor aside and fight the battle God has given me as myself, not someone else. God was not calling me to be this or that pastor my mentors had held up as a role model, but to be the best Micah Royal I could be.
I remember seeing it too in how conservative churches I attended and others I knew attended sent the message of what a good woman and good family would be like. It silenced the voice of many strong women called to lead, pushing some into roles that didn’t fit them, and threatened to crush the souls of others for whom the quiet submissive role did not fit. I am glad to know many such women who chose to say “that armor doesn’t fit me” and to begin to join the battle of faith clothed in a way that was fitting to who they knew themselves to be. These women knew who they were in Christ and through Christ came to know they could not win the battle clothed as someone they were not.
Our world constantly sends the message about what a true man is, what a true woman is, what a successful person looks like, how much wealth or stuff we must have to consider ourselves winners at the contest of life. We also send messages as a culture that try to push people into roles that don’t fit them because of their culture, their gender or gender identity, their sexuality, their abilities or disabilities – sending the message that there is only one acceptable way to be or to seem.
Not so, realizes David. I cannot wear the armor of the army and win. I must continue to don the clothes fit for who I am – the clothes of the shepherd. To truly end up where you and I need to be in life, we need to give up trying to conform to other’s molds of what a good man, woman, or person ought to look like. We need to hear, yes, other’s needs and stories. We need to learn, yes, from other’s examples and insights. But ultimately we need to give up the need to pretend to be anyone we are not. For it is only in the skin we’ve been given, with the clothes and tools that fit us, that we can step into our God-given roles and, together with God, win a victory worth enjoying our whole life long.
And I sure ain’t whistling Dixie,
Your progressive Redneck preacher,