July 4, 1974. 10:14 p.m. 

I doubted I would survive the night. I couldn’t lie down in any position without the feeling of a hot steam iron applied to my flesh. 

The misery was not only self-inflicted, but predicted. Everybody saw it coming. Everybody but me, that is. So I’m not saying I know anything about COVID-19, but I do know a thing or two about warnings left unheeded. 

Put It On!

My Fabulous Bride DebbieMiller and I continue wearing our masks whenever we go out. We accept the limits of their efficacy, but we both take medications that lower our resistance to viral infections, so we can’t afford to take chances. 

Besides, we’re hearing of arguments, fistfights and even gun violence erupting over COVID-19-related public health requirements. 

So the advice our brother Paul offers in Ephesians is timely. Evil is all around, not only in the form of a deadly virus, but also in the way we perceive and treat those around us. 

In our impatience, our arrogance, our rejection of unwelcome news and in our mistreatment of troublesome people, the devil lives, moves and enjoys his being. Therefore, Paul counsels, “Put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:10-20).

Paul says wear it all, “So that you may be able to withstand on that evil day.” Which evil day is that? Today? Tomorrow? Two weeks from next Tuesday? National Squirrel Day (January 21)? 

We don’t know. 

All I know is what transpired on the Fourth of July of my 14th year. 

I Ignored It All

From the moment we showed up at the lake, Mom kept yelling at me to put on a shirt or at least put on some sunblock. I bet I received ― no lie, this is no exaggeration ― two dozen warnings that I was cruising for a bad sunburn. 

I don’t mean little hints and suggestions like, “Braddy, sweetheart, don’t you think you’d better put on a shirt?” 

No, I mean, “Brad Hall! You had better put on a shirt right now or you are going to die! Do you hear me, young man? You are going to get sun poisoning and die!” 

What did Mom know? Well, for one thing, she knew what sun does to untanned, fair skin. As a trusted health and physical education instructor at a small college, she spent years rendering aid to students suffering sunburns as seismic as mine. 

But I only heard challenges and threats to my 14-year-old autonomy. All the sunblock in the world wasn’t going to help me because I didn’t have the sense to put it on. 

I learned my lesson too late to help me on that fateful Independence Day all those years ago, but nowadays I remember it every time I prepare to hit the beach.

I put on two applications of sunscreen while in my tent or the bathhouse. Then I put on sunglasses, a broad-brimmed hat and a pair of 5XL white seersucker pajamas. Then I still use a beach umbrella. And — how’s this for irony — I top it all off with an old, white sheet bearing my Mom’s monogram. 

Embracing the Inner Goof 

After years on the beach sporting such festive garb, wearing a mask in public isn’t such a big deal. It’s a policy I recommend. 

When Paul told his followers to put on the armor of God, even the most literal-minded of them didn’t run out to purchase helmets and breastplates. None of that stuff was going to hold up against an evil day, week or year. But kindness, generosity, tolerance and understanding protected the Ephesians then, and they will serve us now. 

Even as the COVID-19 crisis dims in urgency, people who know what they are talking about tell us to keep wearing masks in public, keep 6 feet apart, avoid large gatherings and wash our hands. 

A lot of us ignore that counsel now, and it stands to reason the future holds even more heedlessness. As for me, I learned my lesson, and I hope to keep on learning. Goofy though it looks, stupid though it feels, I wear my mask. And I know I need to wear my armor.

I’ve been warned.