Tonight I walked through the security room at a local emergency department. No one questioned my right to be there or challenged me. On the contrary, several security fellows looked up, smiled, and said hello.
Why was this you ask? It was because of my uniform. My uniform identifies me as a first responder. The patches on my sleeves show the company I work for and the level of training I have. The name badge on my collar contains my EMT number and employee ID.
Tonight I’ve been thinking a lot about my uniform and what it represents, even how it makes me act.
When I am in uniform, I tend to walk and act more confidently. I make an effort to look people in the faces. I walk with my head up. I try harder to act with courtesy and respect. And at all times in uniform I feel a pressure to be professional and at all times represent my uniform well. People stop me to ask directions. Little children are intrigued and want to say hi and talk to me. There’s a camaraderie between other first responders in the crew room. I’m allowed to go places and walk thru doors that are normally off-limits.
In emergencies, people immediately look to me because of my uniform. They recognize it as someone who should know what they’re doing. When people call us in an emergency, they trust us to come into their homes and they trust us with the most private details of their lives. Because of our uniforms. They look at us to come in and bring order when their lives are upside down.
When I’ve been in uniform, I have been handed free coffee. I’ve had people come up to me and ask if I knew their friend/family member who also works as an EMT. I’ve had people say thank you. I’ve also had people ask if I was a police officer. (I politely explained to them that I carry neither handcuffs or a gun nor do I have any interest in arresting someone.) People automatically lean toward trusting me when I’m in uniform. My word carries more weight.
All these thoughts got me to thinking. What if I acted this way as a believer in Christ? As a believer in Christ, I am in a sense wearing a uniform. My Christian uniform consists of the armor of God that’s in Ephesians 6:10-18 (AMP).
“10 In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [draw your strength from Him and be empowered through your union with Him] and in the power of His [boundless] might. 11 Put on the full armor of God [for His precepts are like the splendid armor of a heavily armed soldier], so that you may be able to [successfully] stand up against all the schemes and the strategies and the deceits of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places. 13 Therefore, put on the complete armor of God, so that you will be able to [successfully] resist and stand your ground in the evil day [of danger], and having done everything [that the crisis demands], to stand firm [in your place, fully prepared, immovable, victorious]. 14 So stand firm and hold your ground, having [b]tightened the wide band of truth (personal integrity, moral courage) around your waistband having put on the breastplate of righteousness (an upright heart), 15 and having [c]strapped on your feet the gospel of peace in preparation [to face the enemy with firm-footed stability and the readiness produced by the good news]. 16 Above all, lift up the [protective] [d]shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. 18 With all prayer and petition pray [with specific requests] at all times [on every occasion and in every season in the Spirit, and with this in view, stay alert with all perseverance and petition [interceding in prayer] for all [e]God’s people.”
These verses give us pretty specific commands on how to wear our uniform and how we are to act in the kingdom of God. Let’s look at it.
vs. 11. “Put on the FULL armor of God”. When I get ready to go to work, I have a mental checklist to make sure I have all the pieces. Pressed shirt? Washed skirt? Name tag? Trauma shears? Pager? Boots? Belt? Watch with a second-hand? Phone? Phone charger? Small notebook? Pens? Having all these things insures that I will be ready for whatever kinds of things may come up during the day. It’s the same way with our Christian lives. Do we run through our checklist at the beginning of the day? Helmet of salvation? Shield of faith? Sword of the Spirit? Belt of truth? Breastplate of righteousness? Shoes of the gospel of peace? Is it all in working order? Do we know how to use it? Do we take care of it?
vs. 14 “wide band of truth around your waistband”. My uniform belt is a sturdy duty belt. It’s wide, made of thick leather, and secure. It holds my trauma shears and pager. It provides a hand hold for my spotter when we’re carrying a patient up or down stairs. It gives fearful patients something to hold on to while we’re moving them from one place to another. And it provides a polished look to the uniform. These verses say that we should have a belt of truth. Since we’re wearing armor I imagine the belt should be sturdy and is important. It keeps everything together. It provides a place to hang all our tools on. It provides a handhold for those who are weaker and for our comrades to help us along. Truth is the centerpiece of our uniform.
vs. 14 “breastplate of righteousness”. I would liken this to my uniform shirt. It provides identifying marks that show my rank and company. It protects me against dirt and bodily fluids. My badges on my arms show that I have the training and authority necessary to step into crazy chaotic situations and attempt to bring help, hope, and healing. They identify what my role is and where I fall in the paramilitary ranking of first responders. So as a Christian, my breastplate, which is protection of my heart and vital organs. It should show that I have the training necessary to step into spiritual chaos and bring order, hope and healing to the wounded and hurting. By being willing to wear this, I am also showing that I am willing to step up to my training and use it in the way it was intended.
vs. 15 “strapped on your feet the gospel of peace in preparation”. These are my boots. My boots are all leather, non-slip, rugged sole boots that give me protection on my feet and provide me stability and grip in all types of terrain and places. I’ve walked in hoarder’s homes with filthy floors. I’ve hiked up hills and walked in squeaky clean hospitals. I’ve stepped in blood, urine, ants, dirt, mud, gravel, carpet, hardwood, and pretty much everything else; and yet my feet have stayed safe, protected and clean. I take care of my boots almost more than any other part of my uniform. I clean them, polish them, and use protecting wax. I have not once lost my footing. By staying on my feet I have kept the rest of my uniform from being dirtied by the environment I found myself in. This is how we should be as Christians as well. Our shoes, the gospel of peace, provide our stability in the middle of the battle. It provides us grip and protection. With the proper shoes, we are able to walk in the midst of filth without getting it on ourselves at all. We can pull people out of the filth of their lives without getting it all over us.
vs. 16 “shield of faith”. I don’t carry a shield with me at work, but on certain calls I do work very closely with police officers who wear bullet resistant vests. So at the risk of stretching this analogy to far, I will liken the police officers’ body armor to our shield of faith. Their vests are often made out of materials which resist the impact of bullets and are often stab proof as well to protect from knives. These officers will risk their lives to protect us and others from people who want to harm or kill us. When police officers are on scene, I know that the scene is likely to be more dangerous than other scenes, but I’m also more confident because we have more protection. Our faith as Christians should be like this. We can walk confidently into situations that may be considered dangerous knowing that our shields will protect us and thwart the enemies attack. With our shields up, we will still have to be on guard, but we won’t have to fear any attacks.
vs. 17 “helmet of salvation”. Head protection. Depends where I am working as an EMT whether on a search mission or on the shipyards, I wear a helmet. On search missions I wear a climbing helmet and at the shipyards I wear a hard hat. The purpose of this is to protect my head, obviously. But protect it from what? Things falling down, me bumping my head into things as I walk through narrow places or under trees, rocks sliding down from the climbers above me, all kinds of things that could cause my head injury. It also provides protection from weather such as sun and rain. With our helmet of salvation on, we can walk through crazy places, dangerous places and have nothing to fear for any type of head injuries. Make sure your helmet stays on and in place and you’re good to go!
vs. 17 “sword of the Spirit”. Now obviously as an EMT I do not carry any type of weapon with me on any scene. But I would like to liken the sword to my tools I carry, my gear. A sword is a tool of a soldier, so I have tools as well. My tools enable me to carry out my job. I have my various bags of gear, and all of the tools in them are at my disposal. However, it is up to me to be familiar with their locations and how they work. I need to train to know how to utilize them and which ones work best for which jobs. So as a Christian I need to train to learn how to best use my sword and how to wield it. It is my responsibility to learn this and keep up with my training. Just like as an EMT I have to keep up on my skills and continue training. I can’t ever assume that just because I learned it once I am done learning forever. Training continues forever.
vs. 18 “stay alert with all perseverance and petition”. Stay alert. This gets drilled into my head more and more as the situation surrounding all first responders becomes more and more sketchy in our current world. Threats against my coworkers. Firefighters off-duty being attacked. Many police officers being killed. Fake 911 calls being placed in order to attack the first responders. Normally safe scenes quickly becoming unsafe. More and more of our training centers around situational awareness and being constantly on guard even on “routine” calls. The more this is being trained into me the more I realize how much this is necessary on a spiritual level as well. Be alert. Watch out for subtle signs that not everything is as it appears. Don’t take things at face value. Be ready to deescalate any situation as needed. Learn HOW to deescalate a situation before it becomes more dangerous. Learn to control your reactions to things like anger and fear. Be able to remain calm in the face of high levels of stress. Always watch your back. Be alert for your partner’s safety as well. Be ready to vacate premises for your own safety as needed. And always remember your own safety comes first, then your partner’s, and then your patient’s. If you get injured, you’re no good to anyone. Stay safe! Not only physically but also spiritually!
Pay attention to your Christian uniform. Do I take as much care of it as I do my EMT uniform? Do I realize the significance of it? Do I walk out the confidence that I should have? My physical uniform makes me think of my spiritual uniform. Is yours in working order?