When you are struggling who stands in the gap to pray for you? Who are the people who can gather and create a turtle formation around you during challenging times? Who gives you the hug that lasts longer than normal that tells you without words that you are not alone? Who puts words to your needs as they pray for you when you do not even know what to pray for yourself?
God created us for relationship. We need to build an intimacy with other people that creates a safe place where we are able to share the fears and insecurities that we hide from the rest of the world. If you have people and a place such as this in your life – good for you! If not, ask God to show you opportunities to build relationship and community with the people around you. Carve time out of your schedule for quality face-to-face time with friends. Offer to pray for others and asked to be prayed for in turn.
During my recent struggles I began to feel a large and scary pit open in front of me. Whether literal or figurative I feared falling into it and being unable to climb out. In sharing my feelings with a group of women, with whom I do life, they asked if they could pray for me right then and right there. In doing so one of them prayed that God would fill up the hole so that there would be no place to fall. Which brings me to the turtle formation.
This same group of women and I did Priscilla Shirer’s life-changing study, The Armor of God, together last year. As Paul describes the armor of God he first describes the items we wear - the belt of truth buckled around our waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. The shield is the only item that requires work from us. We are to take it up. It is not something that we wear passively but something that we are to use aggressively. Ephesians 6:16 says, “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”
Paul lived in a world controlled by the Romans. The Roman shield his readers would have pictured was called a scutum. This type of shield was as large as a door and would have covered the front of the warrior. As a group of fighting soldiers they could close ranks into a rectangle shape and position their shields in such a way as to form a complete enclosure around themselves. Those on the outside would create the perimeter walls and those in the middle would raise their shields over their heads to finish the enclosure. This formation was called a testudo which translates from the Latin as “tortoise.”
The shields fit so closely together that there were no gaps in between. This created complete protection for the soldiers inside. The shields were most often made of wood, covered in animal hide and soaked with water before battle so the enemy’s flaming arrows would be extinguished when they hit the shield.
I no longer fear the hole I sensed before me. Because it is filled with the women who love me holding up their shields, keeping me safe inside the turtle formation and blocking the hole.
Precious Father – May we be strong in you and in your mighty power. May we put on the full armor of God, so that we can take a stand firm against the devil’s schemes. May we actively take up the shield of faith and may we gather with other believers in the turtle formation as needed. Amen.