I CAN’T BREATH
By Clay Jacobsen



Ephesians 6:13-17
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.

In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

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The fear crying out through the bright blue eyes of the little six-year-old girl was enough to break her father’s heart. She didn’t want to do it. But there was no turning back now. The moment had come.

He knelt in front of his daughter. “Come on, Shelby,” he said gently.

Her eyes lowered to the hard dirt.

It was the third inning of a junior-league softball game. Each time the girls took the field, they rotated places so that throughout the season they would get to play every position. It was Shelby’s turn to be the catcher. She had begged to change places with another girl on the team. But the coach had insisted that everybody do it at least once.

Shelby was the youngest girl on the team, well under four feet tall. Her long blond hair was pulled into a ponytail that hung through the strap at the back of her baseball cap. It was her first year, and her dad had worked hard with her on catching the ball and hitting it, but he hadn’t prepared her for this.

Shelby looked at the stacked-up catcher’s gear waiting for her. She shivered. “Why can’t Kelsey play catcher again? She likes it!”

“It’s your turn, Shelby.” Her dad smiled warmly, then reached behind him and grabbed the plastic shin guards. “It won’t be that bad. Come on, the team’s waiting for you.”

Shelby stood as still as a frightened deer.

Her father placed the first shin guard on her right leg, the top of it reaching well beyond the knee all the way to the top of her thy. While strapping the second guard around the other leg, he looked into her face. Her lips pursed as she blinked repeatedly in an attempt to keep the built-up tears from releasing.

“These will protect your legs, Shelby,” he explained. He tapped the shin guard with his knuckles to simulate a ball striking it.

The noise startled her and she jerked. But a second later she smiled. “That didn’t hurt at all.” Her sheepish grin disappeared when her dad reached for the chest protector.

The big black pad loomed over her, eclipsing her face momentarily as it slipped over her head. Dad pulled Shelby into a comforting hug, then connected the straps behind her. He leaned back and examined his handiwork. The chest protector dwarfed her, hanging well below her knees.

“How does that feel?”

“Big.”

“I know.” He gave her another reassuring smile. “But now nothing can hurt you, right?”

“I guess,” Shelby answered without conviction.

“Just one more piece.” He reached for the catcher’s mask. It looked like a batting helmet with the grating from his barbeque grill plastered over the front of it. “Take off your cap.”

Shelby hesitated, then obeyed. He placed the mask over her head. His baby girl was gone, replaced by a warrior ready for battle.

He knelt in front of her, meeting her eye-to-eye, which was pretty much all he could see of her face. The big blue eyes blinked a couple of times, silently pleading with him to get her out of this predicament. The faceplate masked the rest of her head and what was designed to be a chin guard fit snugly underneath her nose.

“I keint blmmpph,” she muttered.

“What?” He lifted the helmet slightly.

“I can’t breathe,” she repeated sucking in a air.

Compassion welled up within him. If he could take her place, he would. But this was something she had to do to be part of the team. He adjusted the helmet, leaving enough space below her nostrils so that she could breathe.

“Is that better?”

Her eyes responded as if to say, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Then she nodded. Her father suppressed a smile when the helmet stayed perfectly still as her head bobbed up and down.

He placed Shelby’s glove into her hand, and then helped her out of the dug out. “I’m proud of you, honey,” he whispered in her ear. ‘Now, go get ‘em.”

Her expression tore at his heart, the attempt to appear brave not quite masked by the fear still obvious in those huge blue eyes. He smiled one more time, pointed her toward home plate, and made his way to the backstop ten feet behind her.

She walked like a robot. The hard plastic of the shin guards pressed tight against her knees, forcing her to walk stiff legged. The part that was supposed to bend at the knee was four inches above where it needed to be for Shelby. To move forward she had to lean way over to her left almost to the point of tipping over, then force her right foot far enough in front of her to shift her balance back toward it. Then she repeated the process the opposite direction, again nearly toppling over onto the hard dirt infield.

Finally, she stood behind the plate, panting with exhaustion.

“Play Ball!” the umpire yelled.

The first pitch hit the ground about six feet in front of home plate. The batter swung wildly, missing the ball by a foot. But Shelby couldn’t have seen it because her eyes were closed tight.

The ball rolled past her all the way to the backstop. Her father moved to grab the ball, then stopped himself when he saw Shelby waddling toward him. His pride welled up as he watched his little girl struggle in the padding.

She reached the backstop and attempted to bend over to get the ball, but the chin guard of her helmet pressed against the chest protector, making it impossible for her to see the ground. She patted the dirt in an attempt to locate the ball by touch.

Lighthearted chuckles came from the stands of parents behind the fence. Finally, Shelby found the softball and she scooped it up. She walked stiff-legged back to the plate. With all her might, she threw the ball to the pitcher. A cheer went up from the crowd; the loudest voice was that of her dad’s. “Great job, Shelby,” he yelled.

She turned and for the first time here eyes sparkled. He thought he saw a quick smile, but with the chin guard covering her mouth he couldn’t be sure.

The next pitch came and the ball passed by Shelby again. This time, her dad bent down and grabbed it. When Shelby waddled back to get it, he tossed it into her open glove. She laughed, then turned and threw the ball to the pitcher. After that, each time the ball passed Shelby, her father assisted her. They became a team.

The inning continued until every player on the opposing team had taken her turn batting. They scored six runs.

Dad helped Shelby back to the dugout, then took off the warrior’s armor, revealing a hot and tired little girl. Relief washed over Shelby’s face. THe ordeal was over.

Her father tucked her into his arms and hugged her tight. “I’m proud of you, honey.”

“Thanks Daddy.” Shelby gave a hint of a smile. “It wasn’t so bad. I could do it again if the team really needed me to.”

He winked. “Think you’d want to be the catcher every game?”

Shelby’s eyes widened as she shook her head. “No way, Jose’!”



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Life-Application


“No way, Lord! I can’t fit into that.”

Do you hear yourself saying that as you read Paul’s vivid description of the armor of God in Ephesians 6? Does your mind visualize a heavy, stiff, full-body suit of silver metal, molded as the shape of a knight, where not an inch of skin is visible?

I can’t see myself fighting in one of those. Much like little Shelby struggling within the catcher’s gear, I think that kind of armor would swallow me up to where I might never be found again.

Young David tried to fit into King Saul’s armor before meeting Goliath. I can almost hear the lad mumbling under the heavy bronze helmet, “I can’t breathe!”

David took off Saul’s armor went to the battlefield with only his slingshot and the power and might of the Living God—in full spiritual armor.

The armor of God is not cumbersome; it does not make you walk stiff kneed, nor does it inhibit your breathing. God’s armor is designed exactly for you and it fits perfectly.

Paul instructs us to put on the whole armor of God. But how do we put on Truth? Righteousness? Salvation? Peace? Faith?

It all comes with relationship.

Take, for example, the shield of faith that is able to extinguish the fiery darts of the evil one. Faith comes naturally when you’re in relationship with Jesus Christ. The closer we are to him—the more we understand His nature, His love, and His promises to us—the more we’ll trust Him. The same is true for His truth, His righteousness, His peace, and His Spirit.

Walking daily in close relationship with Jesus is how we put on the complete armor of God. That means spending time praying and reading his word.

It’s not done by our strength. Paul started this section by saying, “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power” (Ephesians 6:10). We win the battles through his might, not out of anything we do or say. That’s how David was able to defeat Goliath. He knew his God and he walked in peace, truth and faith.

When we picture the armor of God being an extension of what Jesus accomplished and a natural attribute of our deepening relationship with Him, we won’t feel overwhelmed by it. Jesus said in Matthew 11: 20, His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

So put on the full armor of God without being intimidated. In our daily battles against the evil forces, stand in the power of Jesus Christ. The closer you walk with the Lord, the more comfortable you’ll be in the armor. You’ll have a better understanding of His salvation, His truth, His righteousness, His faithfulness His peace and the power of His word.

Just as Shelby’s father stood behind her during the game, so does your heavenly Father stand beside you through every battle. Picture Him gently crouching before you, helping you to suit up in His armor. Then take a deep breath and “Play Ball!”

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Prayer: Father, thank you for the wonderful promise of your armor. I know that my battle is not against flesh and blood but against evil forces. Help me put on the full armor of God as I grow in my relationship with you. I know that through the strength and power of Jesus, I will be able to stand against the attacks of the enemy.