To Put on the Armor of God, We Have to Take Off the ‘Armor of Me’

Thérèse of Lisieux teaches us to have childlike faith and stop protecting our vulnerabilities.

I have a Bible from my youth, one I purchased for myself when I was in middle school. I underlined a number of verses during those formative years of adolescence. Flipping through the pages now, I see a common thread in the passages I singled out. They are predominantly calls to action, the instructional sections that mapped out an identifiable way for me to feel I was doing enough to satisfy God.

One of my greatest recurring anxieties is the possibility that I might in some way not be taking my sin seriously enough. That sounds ultraspiritual, but it is more fear-driven than pious. I review not just my actions but every internal agenda, and I come to the same conclusion as Jeremiah: The heart is a convoluted mess (Jer. 17:9). I scrape my mind for any residue of wrong that might need to be confessed and eradicated, only to discover new twisted layers underneath. Pulling the lid off of my soul felt like staring into a bottomless cauldron of horrors.

It never occurs to me in the midst of all the soul-scrubbing that perhaps part of what God desires for me is freedom from the self-loathing and cruel harshness that tries to pass itself off as making me more like him. The very self-admonishment I equate with holiness is in fact distorting my perception of God.

Pursuing the path of taking “full responsibility” for my sin only pushes me toward despair, because I find that the problem is deeper and more pervasive in me than I can begin to address (“Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me”—Romans 7:21). I am unable to discern my true motivations with certainty. The more I dissect my confessions, the less adequate they seem, pulling me further down the rabbit hole of introspection.

My attempts …

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