I had an interesting experience the other day. My wife, Jan, and I were getting our house all decked out for Christmas and I was in the Christmas Spirit! In order to complete the decorating, I needed to run to Home Depot to pick up a few things. As I headed out, Jan handed me a list of items to pick up at the grocery store, since it was on the way.

I hopped in my car, plugged in my iPod, and turned on my favorite Christmas music. First stop, the grocery store. I checked off all the items on my list and, as I was heading to the checkout, I spotted a bag of mini powdered-sugar doughnuts…

It’s Christmas – so in the cart they went!

When I got to my car, I opened the bag of donuts and put them on the seat next to me. On came the Christmas music once again and up went the volume. Next stop, Home Depot.

While in route, I began to think of my precious 15-month-old granddaughter and how much fun Christmas will be this year. She is all wonder and now knows enough to be captivated by lights, glitter, and presents (or, at least, the boxes the presents come in). I popped a doughnut into my mouth, brushed the powered-sugar off my shirt, and turned up the volume on my stereo even more.

A few blocks down the road my mind went forward to Christmases to come. I thought of how amazing it will be with all our other grandchildren. Right now, our daughter Alison is pregnant with twin girls and our daughter Andrea is also pregnant (she thinks she’s carrying another girl). Christmas with a gaggle of girls!!!

I popped another doughnut into my mouth as I pulled into the Home Depot parking lot.

Just then another Christmas song came on that reminded me of my mother. She passed away two and a half years ago after a four-year battle with cancer. Because my dad preceded her in death, I became her source of help and support, and her patient advocate. I went to doctor’s appointments with her, cooked her meals, and even moved in with her near the end of her life.

She would have been delighted to see her beautiful granddaughters as parents. She would have gloried in the gaggle of great-granddaughters.

That’s when it happened…

I suddenly became overwhelmed with emotion.

I began to sob like a little child!

Here I am in the middle of the Home Depot parking lot, Christmas music blasting from my car like a gangster and evidence of my mini-doughnut indiscretion all over me – and I’m weeping uncontrollably…

The thought occurred that, at any moment, the “gender patrol” might storm the parking lot and take away my “man card!” I had to get a grip. All I could think about was getting into the power tool section of Home Depot so that I could regain some dignity.

So I attempted to wipe the tears from my eyes and the powder sugar off my shirt, and to regulate my breathing so that I’d stop sobbing.

“It’s all going to be okay,” I said to myself. “Just buy some duct tape and you’ll be fine.”

Armor bearing is for everyone!

I was relaying this story to Jer the other day, and he told me that I really needed to share it on NexTwelve.com.

He reminded me that, as we explore the art of armor bearing, we always need to remember that it’s not about tough masculinity or strong femininity. It’s not about militantly taking-the-hill, or a battle to be fought and won.

Instead, armor bearing is all about character and commitment.

And it’s for everyone – man or woman, old or young.

The perfect picture of an armor bearer is a person distinctively marked by a fierce love for others. And this compassion will most likely move us to emotion – though perhaps not while you’re covered with powdered sugar and blaring Christmas music in the Home Depot parking lot!

One of my favorite authors, Henri Nouwen describes love as a powerful force with which to be reckoned.

“Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering, because those we most love cause us not only great joy but also great pain. The greatest pain comes from leaving. When the child leaves home, when the husband or wife leaves for a long period of time or for good, when the beloved friend departs to another country or dies … the pain of the leaving can tear us apart. Still, if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving, we will never experience the joy of loving. And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking.

– Henri Nouwen

Compassion is the powerful force behind armor bearing and a distinguishing character trait of a true armor bearer.

Armor bearing demands that we commit to and love the ones who stand alongside us.

Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series on ‘armor bearing friendship‘ – the subject of an upcoming book by Jer Monson and Steve Gerali. Your thoughts will help us shape the book, so be a part of the conversation in the comments below.  You can also subscribe to stay connected to new posts on armor bearing. When you do, you can download a FREE copy of Jer’s ebook, 12 Ways to Maximize Your Next Twelve!

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