Life’s a Rollercoaster: Get Your Breastplate of Righteousness in Place

Life’s a Rollercoaster: Get Your Breastplate of Righteousness in Place July 15, 2023

Black and white photo of excited riders on a loop rollercoaster with over-the-shoulder-restraints in place
Check out how small the rider in the second row, second from the left is. Hmmm, I really don’t know if that kid was big enough to fill those over-the-shoulder-restraints. Meanwhile, the person in front seems plenty big enough. How can we be “big enough” to feel held in place by God’s breastplate of righteousness?

“Stand firm, then… with the breastplate of righteousness in place,” Ephesians 6:14a (NIV)

I vividly remember when the first loop rollercoaster, Lighting Loops, opened at the pre-Six Flags amusement park, Great Adventure, in Jackson, NJ. I worked there a couple summers, so I happily rode it many times.

I was accustomed to the lap bars that held you in place on what might now be considered quaint, “old-fashioned” rollercoasters. At Great Adventure, that classic coaster was The Runaway Train.

The all-new, thrilling Lightning Loops took you upside-down twice, so you were held in place by the relatively new invention: overhead bars. I’ll admit, those overhead bars took a getting used to. It felt claustrophobic to have all that thickly-padded metal so close to my neck and cheeks. At the same time, I always felt a moment of panic. Should I alert the operator that, hey, didn’t you notice a bit too much space between the bar and my chest?!

Fully 40 years later, in the wake of my baptism, I’ve been studying the full armor of God that the Holy Spirit placed upon me. And more often than not, I’ve felt the same dichotomy and maddening panic from God’s Breastplate of Righteousness.

Sometimes I’ve felt choked by its close fit. Other times I’ve felt like it’s too big for me.

Then I started wondering… am I too small?


A Breastplate vs. an Over-the-Shoulder Restraint

First things first: Those overhead bars on Lightning Loops, AKA over-the-shoulder restraints AKA OTSR’s, keep you from falling out of a ride that’s throwing you all about. (Thanks for some nice bits of coaster info and history.)

A breastplate, however, keeps you from sustaining injury – or from dying – when weapons are “thrown at” you. And technically, the breastplate only protects your heart, lungs, and upper abdomen from the front. A backplate protects you from the back, and the two pieces together are called a cuirass. (Thanks Collins Dictionary for that clarification.)

These are very different pieces of protective gear that have seemingly opposite functions.

Yet they have this in common: each must be “in place” to protect you properly.


“In place” and upside-down on a Wisconsin roller coaster

On July 5, 2023, the Fireball Roller Coaster stopped upside-down at a county festival in Chandon, WI. Eight passengers were suspended “in place” for 4 hours while firefighters worked to return them to uprightness. (Thanks for letting us know that everyone remained safe and healthy in the end.)

Thank God for the operators who did the pre-ride check that the OTSR’s were locked into place.

There’s a balance between having enough space to breathe and not too much space to slip out.


Meanwhile, in our fave historical fiction binges…

Various types of breastplates from suits of armor, with a more complete suit in the foreground
So many breastplates, so many sizes and styles. There’s one breastplate – God’s – that is embedded with righteousness. How can we ever fit into God’s breastplate so that it feels like it’s securely in place? So we’re properly protected – with righteousness – from The Enemy’s weapons?

If you’re a fan of films and TV shows that feature swords, arrows, and/or spears, you’ve seen all the exciting times when the warriors’ breastplates deflect these weapons.

You’ve also seen the fatal moment when one of those weapons sinks between the breastplate and the backplate.

Yikes, despite a proper fit on a skilled – and usually quite big-n-buff – warrior, sometimes an enemy’s weapon slips in.


Righteousness vs. Self-righteousness

This is exactly what I started worrying about! Even with God’s Breastplate of Righteousness set upon me, would I ever build enough spiritual muscle to fill it? So that The Enemy’s weapons would not slip in?

I prayed for guidance because, as an exercise physiology professor and an elite athlete, I couldn’t work out an answer.

The Holy Spirit guided me to study the word “righteousness.”

I had a knee-jerk reaction against the word “righteousness.” I thought of “righteousness” as “being right.” As “winning the argument” and “having the correct thinking.” As “looking down my nose” because “I’m better than you.” I thought of “righteousness” as being “full of myself.” So, a big part of me didn’t want to be righteous.

I was dead wrong.

I was dangerously confusing God’s “righteousness” with my own “self-righteousness.”

This was such a massive lesson that I’ll write a separate article – maybe even a series – on righteousness vs. self-righteousness.

For now, let’s focus on righteousness in this piece of God’s armor. As always, I had to return to the basics. I had to humble myself from lofty knight to squire-in-training, as it were.


What Righteousness Is, In a Nutshell (or in a Breastplate)

Cambridge Dictionary defines “righteousness” in the secular way: “morally correct behavior, or the feeling that you are behaving in a morally correct way.” The italics are mine because this part of the definition is exactly the part I had been living in my pre-baptism life. I saw myself as behaving correctly, according to morals set by our society. And full reveal: I also saw myself as superior than most.

But explains that the Biblical definition of righteousness is based on God’s standard, not the standards of any of the various societies of the world. God’s righteousness is “God’s own perfection in every attribute, every attitude, every behavior, and every word.”

Ouch, those are high standards. Big standards. Perfect standards.

Unattainable standards.

Because in our current societies, we’re so very far from perfection. We’re too small to fill that standard.


Ugh, then how can we possibly grow big enough – to God’s level of righteousness?

God knew all along that we humans would never, ever be able to attain His level of righteousness. That serpent’s weapon of temptation sunk in – in between a too-big space in the cuirass – way back in the beginning. And it’s been an ongoing battle ever since since, right?

So, how can we grow to a bigger level of righteousness – one that’s closer to God’s level?

Step 1 towards God’s righteousness:

God gave Jesus to us in a form that looked just like us so we could have a model and a chance to become more like Jesus.

Apostle Paul spells this out for us in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians when he writes, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (italics mine, 2 Cor 5:21 NIV)

Step 2 towards God’s righteousness:

Why did I italicize “might” in the verse above?

Because even our moments of conversion by and transformation through Christ don’t quite cut it when it comes to getting righteousness right. #stillhuman

God apparently knew this, too.

Enter Holy Spirit.

Paul writes in Romans, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (italics mine, Romans 14:17 NIV)

Do you feel like I do – like you’re a well-fitted, skilled, and muscled warrior for God on some days? But you’re a clunky, awkward, and weak trainee on others? What practical things can we do to “train” with the Holy Spirit on those less-than-righteous days?


Reflective Response:

Safety check – Is your Breastplate of Righteousness “in place”

Remember those Wisconsin rollercoaster riders? Good thing the operators did a pre-ride safety check, to be absolutely sure those OTSR’s were securely “in place.” And the riders were – whew – held “in place” when the coaster malfunctioned mid-loop.

We can do the same thing – by checking in with the Holy Spirit, especially before making a decision, making a comment, or even making a request of God.

Here’s a 3-point checklist for you:

(feel free to save this post, screenshot this list – and share it with your fave rollercoaster-of-life buddy)

  1. Ask the Holy Spirit to enter into your heart and thoughts in this moment, and welcome Him as a beloved mentor sitting with you for a much-needed advice session.
  2. Thank the Holy Spirit for being with you, whether you’re “coasting along in life” right now, or if this is the scariest part of the “rollercoaster of your life” so far.
  3. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you the next steps you should take – and ask for those steps to align with God’s will. This is the key step to wearing your breastplate with the righteousness that’s embedded in it! Always ask for alignment!


  • Listen for the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
  • Thank the Holy Spirit.
  • And keep in mind that the Holy Spirit is always right there beside you, even when you’re not actively doing the safety check.

He’s holding that Breastplate of Righteousness securely in place, so you won’t slip out –

and The Enemy’s weapons won’t slip in.

About Coco Cabrel
Coco Cabrel, The Flamenco-Fit MD, uplifts professional women searching for Christian grace in their bodies and souls, even when life feels ungraceful to them. She uses her God-given gifts as a writer, speaker, dancer and teaching MD to share devotional stories, fun workouts with Flamenco flair, and effective courses that help to rise triumphant over hardship. You can read more about the author here.

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