Back to school is usually a time full of emotions and nerves. Excitement fills the air with the anticipation of a new school year and new things to come. But fear and worry can accompany that as well. The whole thing, in our house at least, means a few weeks of a living out a big ol’ ball of mixed emotions.
Throw in a Bratz bike helmet and the tears start to flow.
It was our first morning of school. Everyone was up, on time and ready to go. When it was time for our youngest to head out on her bike, we told her to go to the garage and get her helmet. She came back in saying she couldn’t find it. After several minutes of looking, the only thing we could find was a dusty, bright purple hand-me-down helmet from her older sister. And it had Bratz logos all over it.
Apparently Bratz is SO yesterday.
She was fixated on the brand. She did NOT want to wear something so “uncool” and “embarrassing”. But, she knows her father would say that not wearing a helmet was not an option when there’s a perfectly fine helmet in the garage. So, rather than argue with us, or ride to school with such an embarrassing logo on her helmet, she decided that she would just cover it up with pieces of computer paper. Silent tears streamed down her cheeks as she cut and scotch-taped on the pieces. Because THIS was going to draw less attention than outdated images.
After a quick text to my neighbor, I realized her own helmet had been across the street in their garage. Crisis averted. The tears dried up, she ran to get her own helmet, and headed off to school with the barometer reading set back to happy. The uncool, covered up Bratz helmet was left sitting quietly on my desk in her wake.
And life rolled along. Three weeks later, the helmet still sits here in my office. I see it when I walk in the front door. I see it when I come to my computer to catch up on emails and work on my blog or my music. I see it when it’s a fitbit-worthy step day getting the house picked up again. At first I just giggled. Picturing my daughter riding down the street with this paper-covered helmet, and her thinking this was her best option? It was just funny to me.
But I kept feeling that little voice inside reminding me of scripture. Every time I saw the helmet I found myself thinking about Paul’s letter the the Ephesians when he talks about the armor of God…
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 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.” (Ephesian 6:10-17)
The helmet of salvation. I did a little research about this specific piece. I, admittedly, had become a little helmet-obsessed. The helmet of salvation is our hope. Arguably it’s the most important piece of armor to go on. Hope is an anchor for our soul. It is a source of comfort and protection as we live out our lives. And the beautiful thing is, we all have a helmet to wear. Christ made sure of that.
But, what’s the saying…. apples don’t fall far from the tree? Maybe, just maybe, my daughter got her flawed thinking about her Bratz helmet from me. I have a perfect helmet. It’s there for me and protects me. But, I label it. I label ME. I focus on the brand I have given myself by the mistakes I’ve made in the past… by the not-my-finest-moment parenting situations… by the negative self-talk that I could have been a better mother, wife, daughter, friend…. Christian. And then, just as my daughter did, I try really hard to not let that show. That’s not cool. I want to fit in and not carry with me what I find embarrassing. It’s a sloppy, make-shift effort to cover up my perception of unacceptable.
But the branding and judgement is self-imposed. It’s of this world. The helmet is just a helmet. This perfect piece of armor is right there for me, for my own protection. It really doesn’t matter how I label things or how I brand it. The helmet protects me regardless. It keeps me safe. It’s a source of comfort.
We are four weeks into school, and the paper-covered Bratz helmet is still sitting in my office. I think about how my daughter worried more about the brand and less about the protection of the helmet that her father was trying to provide for her. And then I get that in-your-gut-reminder. I am pretty sure my Father feels the same way about me. I need to focus less on how I brand myself because of not living out my roles in life perfectly and I need to focus more on the fact that I have hope in Him. A helmet of hope. All I have to do is put it on.