“Stay alert with all perseverance in your prayers for all the saints.”

(Ephesians 6:18b BSB)

My son, Paul Jr., was a fairly mild mannered boy growing up. Though sometimes an instigator of mischief toward his older sisters, he tended to “turn the other cheek” when among playmates his own age.

Most of the time I was proud of his gentle nature. However, I was concerned whenever I’d see something like a bully kicking sand at him on the playground and he’d just stand there in bewilderment. The idealist side of me wanted him to live by the golden rule. The pragmatic side of me wanted him to stand up for himself and deck the bully.

I guess I just wanted the assurance that he would learn the difference between turning the other cheek and turning into a punching bag. But when he was four years old an incident happened that convinced me I had no cause for concern.

We were at our community’s public swimming pool and I was watching Paul play with his friend, Robby, in the kiddie pool. Robby was six, about a head taller than Paul, and had a similar temperament. They played together well. They’d sometimes wrestled; but it was always a play wrestle, not a mean spirited wrestle. I never saw them cross with each other. They’d play together for hours in the kiddie pool like no one else existed and would only break for their parents to reapply sunscreen.

But this day a new kid showed up. Red haired and freckled, he looked like a six-year-old version of the Scut Farkus character that tormented Ralphie in the 1980’s movie, “A Christmas Story.” The new kid started playing his own version of “king of the kiddie pool” as soon as he stepped into the water. This samurai sapling wasn’t just wrestling rough; he was wrestling mean!

Paul quickly retreated toward the corner of the pool. Robby started to follow him but the new kid intercepted. He dunked Robby and proceeded to sweep the pool with him. Then it happened. Primordial protective rage suddenly welled up within my conscientious objector son.

Paul leapt on the bully’s back and pulled him off of Robby. The red haired kid struggled free from Paul’s grasp and turned to face his new antagonist. When he did, he found Paul crouched like a tiger, fire in his eyes. For a full minute they stared at each other in a classic western stand off. I swear I could hear the theme music to “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.”

Neither one was willing to back down. Then, the tiny tyrant made a move toward Robby. Paul checked him. Another stare down. I had never seen Paul’s face so intense or his eyes so focused. The boy in front of him was at least four inches taller and probably ten pounds heavier. One thing was certain. Paul wasn’t going to let this bully abuse his friend.

The possible harm he was not willing to risk for himself, he took no thought of in protecting his friend. There was no premeditated thought, no gut check, just reflex. Hurt me, no problem. Hurt my friend, big problem!

I suppose the fire in Paul’s eyes convinced the bully that the spoils wouldn’t be worth the battle. He backed down. But, when Paul turned, the bully splashed water at him. Paul immediately sent a tidal wave back. Another stand off. This time I stepped in between them. Little Scut Farkus left the pool and went inside the pavilion.

When the scripture tells us to “stay alert and persevere” in our prayers for the saints, it’s telling us to fight for our friends. It’s the reason God has equipped us with spiritual armor (Eph. 6:10-17). We’re to have each other’s backs and stare down the devil through prayer anytime he tries to bully one of our fellows.

We needn’t back down no matter how intense the battle. Eventually, our Father will step in and the devil will have to get out of the pool.

©️ Paul R Downing, Daybreak Devotions
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