I have been blessed with eight unique children.
They have similarities, to be sure, but really they are incomparable. Each of them was sent to our home with their own combination of talents, interests and sensitivities. They all view the world through slightly different perspectives, have their own personal tastes and their own set of challenges. They are all here to master themselves, but the list of what they must conquer is different for each one. Each of them even has their own unique (and predictable) response to waking up in the morning!
The fact that they are completely original people is what makes being around them so much fun. Sometimes it makes teaching them complex. As convenient as it might be, there can be no assembly line parenting. With each child in each stage, we must learn how to communicate with them in a way that reaches their heart, how to motivate them, how to help them understand correct principles and choose to live according to them.
As I ponder the road ahead, I realize that their future opportunities and challenges will be as unique as their spirits. I want so much to send them all out into the world fully equipped to avoid unnecessary pitfalls and to meet adversity with determination and faith.
This line of thinking led me yesterday to the New Testament. In Ephesians 6, we are instructed to take upon ourselves the whole armor of God. In verses 10-18 we read,
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the powers of the devil.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
And take the helmet of salvation, and thd sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God;
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” (King James Version)
I have always loved the imagery of this passage of scripture, picturing valiant individuals fully prepared to STAND in difficult times, able to refuse evil, sin and also the temptation to succumb to self-deception through excuses, victim mindsets and lack of personal accountability. I picture these valiant individuals with light in their eyes, purpose in their step, courage and compassion in their behavior, and truth in their hearts as they watch “with all perseverance”. They’re not perfect, but they have the tools necessary to be victorious.
I want my children to be like this. I want them each to reach their full potential and become a blessing for the world around them. I know they will make mistakes, but I want them to understand how to return to what is true and good.
Fifteen years ago I heard a talk that I’ve never forgotten. It was titled “The Shield of Faith” and was given by Boyd K. Packer. Its message is relevant today:
“As it has been since the beginning, the adversary would divide us, break us up, and if he can, destroy us. But the Lord said, ‘Lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins, and take upon you my whole armor, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day, … taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked’ (D&C 27:15, 17; emphasis added).
The ministry of the prophets and apostles leads them ever and always to the home and the family. That shield of faith is not produced in a factory but at home in a cottage industry.
The ultimate purpose of all we teach is to unite parents and children in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, that they are happy at home, sealed in an eternal marriage, linked to their generations, and assured of exaltation in the presence of our Heavenly Father.
Lest parents and children be “tossed to and fro,” and misled by “cunning craftiness” of men who “lie in wait to deceive” (Eph. 4:14), our Father’s plan requires that, like the generation of life itself, the shield of faith is to be made and fitted in the family. No two can be exactly alike. Each must be handcrafted to individual specifications.
The plan designed by the Father contemplates that man and woman, husband and wife, working together, fit each child individually with a shield of faith made to buckle on so firmly that it can neither be pulled off nor penetrated by those fiery darts.
It takes the steady strength of a father to hammer out the metal of it and the tender hands of a mother to polish and fit it on. Sometimes one parent is left to do it alone. It is difficult, but it can be done.
In the Church we can teach about the materials from which a shield of faith is made: reverence, courage, chastity, repentance, forgiveness, compassion. In church we can learn how to assemble and fit them together. But the actual making of and fitting on of the shield of faith belongs in the family circle. Otherwise it may loosen and come off in a crisis.
This shield of faith is not manufactured on an assembly line, only handmade in a cottage industry. Therefore our leaders press members to understand that what is most worth doing must be done at home. Some still do not see that too many out-of-home activities, however well intended, leave too little time to make and fit on the shield of faith at home.”
Those words fill my heart with both excitement and apprehension. Today I am pondering eight shields of faith. I’m thinking about my efforts in this “cottage industry.” I’m considering how to shape and mold those shields to better fit individual needs. I am reflecting on the sacredness of the family circle and the words “what is most worth doing must be done at home.” I’m wondering what we need to let go of to create more time for the construction of that essential armor. I am realizing how much help I need from my Heavenly Father to recognize spiritual and emotional needs and to know just what the individual specifications are. I’m looking for ways my husband and I can work together more purposefully to accomplish these goals.
I’m also inspired by the vision of eight incomparable shields fitted for eight incomparable individuals. I’ve considered the many different titles that I qualify for as a mother: leader, chauffeur, cook, teacher, counselor, party planner, accountant, maid, the list goes on. I think “armor craftsman” would be an appropriate addition. An incomparable assignment for incomparable individuals. I’m sure I can count on personal revelation to accomplish it. What an honor!