Know your enemy. And know your team, your compadres, those with whom you will be battling the enemy.
Early on in our marriage Dave and I sat down for Family Home Evening with two yellow legal pads in our laps. We each wrote five personal goals. And then we shared them with each other. Then we wrote 5 goals we wanted to aim for as a family. Recently I found Dave's yellow sheet from all those years ago and he has pretty much achieved his goals, or he's on the direct path toward them. It kind of blows me away, because to the average person they are rather lofty. I did not find my goals sheet, which is probably a good thing, cuz I'd likely be a little disappointed. I think it was a good idea to set goals as a family. But I wish, when we began, we and also taken time to identify the enemies of our family, and of each of us individually. By defining the potential enemies, we could have armed ourselves a little better, and been more cautious and diligent about where we set our feet, and the feet of our children. I might have better understood that these people with whom I share a name and a home and a beating heart are my own sacred army. I understand that now, but it might have helped to define it earlier, before we had teenagers.
The Lord, in his wisdom, knows my frailties and thank goodness he gave me the Holy Ghost to deal with battles as they arise. I would be in serious trouble without the Holy Ghost, the spirit of revelation, the keeper of the flame when all appears dark. Three cheers for the Holy Ghost!
And three cheers for my own personal army! We were able, early on in the home I grew up in, to define a common enemy. Having a common enemy is one of the most effective uniters. We become allies when we define common enemies, and that alliance creates a sense of belonging, and of strength, and safety. At first glance one might think that our dad was the common enemy for us, because of his bad decisions and behaviors. But Dad was not the enemy. The enemy was much more insidious, and difficult to battle. The enemy just got ahold of Dad. The enemy was alcohol. Rather, the enemy was the decision to consume it. Alcohol on its own has no power over our family. I think it is amazing that none of my father's children consume alcohol. Not at all. Not even a sip of beer during the Super Bowl. Not even if the Steelers are playing. Maybe our good friend the Holy Ghost defined the enemy for us and we unwittingly armed ourselves against the potential for alcoholism by never taking a first drink. I celebrate my religion and its tenet that we do not consume alcohol or smoke, because while one person may have the wherewithal to take 100 drinks and not be addicted, the chances are also good that after one drink, or two or three, we could find ourselves strapped into the sinking ship of the enemy. I know our genetic propensity, because my father's father had the same issues I am told. So hurrah for zion!
I picture myself arm locked with my siblings in our family army, and then I see myself joined in that army by my children, and their spouses, and their children, and pretty soon there will be a mountainside covered with our royal army, willing and ready to go down the mountain with our swords drawn and our shields before us, glistening in the light of the Son. Not all of us share the same religious beliefs. Not all of us have the same goals. But we do have common enemies, and we do watch out for each other, keeping the ones we love in our peripheral vision as we move on to slay dragons.
And then there's the sweet stuff, the things that tighten the ties that bind us. Like today, after a long night of sitting up in the family room, a mixing bowl in my lap, dry heaving every half hour or so. I was hit with a bug that gave me the cleanse I was too wimpy to impose upon myself. Sheesh. It's been a long 24 hours! So I had to miss the Pinewood Derby with my Cub Scouts, and I didn't have the ability to make a couple pans of brownies as I had promised. So my oldest sister Sherry, the Chief in this picture, stepped in for me. She had come down to our house to see if Dave needed her car, because his is in the shop. Dave was tending baby Joe, so Sherry, a skilled speech therapist, spent a good chunk of time doing a little speech therapy with him as he sat in his high chair. Then she made her way into my bedroom, where I was curled up around a pillow.
"Oh dear," she said, "You got the gomboo! What can I do to help you?" So she went back home and whipped up a bunch of brownies so I would not shirk my duty as a Bear Den leader. She would tell you it was no big deal, and indeed, she is super able to step up and help when someone is in need. But it was a big deal to me. I felt her figurative hand slip between my waist and elbow. I felt her pull me in beside her, weak and weary as I was, and hold me up while we moved forward in this battle we call life. Making brownies for a Cub Scout Pinewood Derby is not what the average human would call a battle. All would be well without them. But her sensitivity to my concerns, and her understanding of my desire to be dependable…these make her a sister in arms. Maybe the word "army" means just that, arms linked together, armed with a common cause.
I am blessed by many people who face the enemies before me. Some who do not even realize I consider them team mates. It's a good thing, because I'm pretty sure the enemy knows us. We keep our blades sharp, and our eyes open, and know that the One we follow will not lead us into any battles we cannot…together... one day win.