Tortoise formation

As I may have mentioned, I’m not much for war metaphors.

Thanks to my formative college years, I am more or less a pacifist (which, I know, makes me “less of a pacifist” by definition).

And I spent a season hearing too many sermons about demons under every rock.

To the point where I nearly threw the Holy Spirit out with the bathwater.


Here we are again, talking about the armor of God.

And this time it’s the shield that catches my attention.

Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  (Eph. 6:16)

I hear it described, so I do a little more research.

Apparently, in Paul’s day, a shield was a gigantic monstrosity of a thing.

Wood and metal covered in water-soaked leather.  To literally extinguish flaming arrows.

It was huge.  And heavy.

And it was meant not just for personal protection, but for communal protection too.

I read about the “tortoise formation” where soldiers stand strong together, shields raised in front and above.  They are completely protected.  Enemy arrows have no way in.

I love this.

Friends, this is what God wants for his people.

For us.

I’ve been around long enough to know that church can be a messy place.

It’s full of people and we are inherently, perpetually messy.

Can I be honest for a second?

There have been seasons when I wondered whether I could ever trust church people again.  Seasons where I prayed for God to help me love his bride and wondered if he heard me.

But, friends.  He did.

Because I have also known seasons of Jesus, I believe.  Help my unbelief.

And in those long nights, in those hard days, my own little community of Jesus-people went all tortoise formation on me.

They hoisted their heavy shields of faith and covered me.

They whispered faith-filled words into my ears.  Texted them to my phone.  Wrote them down in cards and sent them in snail mail (you guys—snail mail is my love language!).  They believed miracles for me when my own faith felt too small, too tired to believe them for myself.

Looking back from the shores of this more-settled season, grateful seems too small a word for those shields of faith wielded on my behalf.  The only appropriate response is to look around with Jesus-eyes and hoist my own shield of faith ready to snap into tortoise formation myself when a dear one needs it.

This is how church is supposed to work.

And I’m here to tell you that sometimes, in spite of our messiness, we Jesus-people get it just right.

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