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When I was a kid, I loved superheroes. I had a large toy box in my bedroom with no toys in it Ė just comic books. I can still recall being told to go clean up my room (since comics were strewn all over the floor like a shiny, variegated carpet). Half an hour or so later, when my parents would come to check on my progress, what do you think they found? Yep. Me, sitting in the midst of a superhero sea, reading a comic book. The dialogue went something like, ďI told you to pick up your comics, not read them.Ē ďBut I havenít read this one in a long time!Ē It had been at least a week.
Now as an adult, I have matured far beyond such fanciful pursuits Ė NOT. Seriously, I really enjoy reading superhero comic books to this day, and I know Iím not alone (come on, guys!). Most Ė excluding graphic novels Ė are around twenty pages or so, with five to ten frames per page, sometimes less. I can ďFlashĒ (sorry) through one in twenty to thirty minutes, if uninterrupted. They truly are like cotton candy in print Ė colorful, sweet but they donít last long. So why are many of us so enamored with these superfolks?
The reason strikes me as two-fold. First, we like reading about superheroes because their lives are happening! I mean, thereís nothing like spending an hour or two living vicariously through Superman or Green Lantern when your own life feels boring or uneventful. These heroes never sit around watching nothing on TV, or spend an hour cleaning a bathroom, or occupy their days by staring at a computer monitor. Theyíre out there, fighting back the storm, keeping supervillains at bay and defending their charges. They risk their own safety, even their lives, with every issue, just to defeat the schemes of evil and keep us from harm. They are making a difference.
Many of us, men in particular, are tired of being told that making good money in a boring job is success. We feel the irresistable pull to engage in battle, and it nags at us. We want to answer the call in the fiber of our being to put our strength, our skills, our design to work fighting for truth, justice, and yes, Iím not afraid to say itÖ the American way. Can you name another country which has done more to support and defend freedom? This country is flawed, of course, as any conglomeration of flawed components is; but God has worked and is working through the USA (albeit not exclusively) to accomplish His will on earth, just as He works through flawed human beings individually to do the same. Those human beings who put their trust and hope in Christ become His brothers, and we get the amazing blessings of access to the plan, the Holy Spirit living inside us and participating in the glory of God! We are designed by our Creator with a certain shape and particular strengths which fit special good works just waiting for our hand; and in Christ, we will find them. (Eph. 2:10)
The second reason I believe we are so drawn (sorry again) to superheroes is one word: power. They have great power, and they use it to engage the forces of darkness at every opportunity, courageously standing in the gap. Our thrill when Superman shields a group of bystanders from a missile that explodes harmlessly on his Kryptonian chest isnít just mindless testosterone and grunting as many have portrayed it; we cheer because heís doing what we long to do, being who we long to be. Itís awesome.
The trouble is, while we sense this powerful desire to step out and take action, we are also undeniably aware of our weakness, our failings, the debilitating wounds we carry around. Even as a follower of Jesus Christ, while I have a real relationship with the One who made me, and Iíve been rescued from sinís condemning effect, my flesh often persuades me to try generating the power I seek on my own. I get a little exasperated with Godís methodology, impatient for the rush of knowing Iím doing something significant. So, at some point, I grab hold of what I can find. Maybe Iíll dust off my tools and build those shelves or the cabinet Iíve had on my to-do list for a year. Or Iíll split a cord of maple (okay, half a cord), refusing to employ a wedge or ask for a buddy to help, because I am going to conquer this wood with just my maul! I might even sign up to lead or serve in a program at church which God has not even called me to or equipped me for. Just get something done Ė it feels good, right? And theyíre not wrong or stupid things to do; but the truth is, the power never lasts. I get the task completed (usually) and feel pretty good and satisfied. All good stuff. But within a couple of days, the nagging is back. I need another fix. And I begin thinking about something bigger, better. Maybe if I accomplished some grand feat, then the fulfillment would last.
As I ponder my affinity for the superhero life (sans spandex, please), I search Godís word and pray for clarity, and honestly, for some confirmation. And the Lord doesnít disappoint. In fact, Heís pleased, and itís just fine that I want to fulfill my design. But He prods me, and I sense there is a power so superior to what Iíve been chasing, so astounding and marvelous, yet requiring much less stress and strain than Iíve already expended. Sign me up! And He responds, I already have. He calls me to walk a little further, think a little higher, and there reveals His superhero: Jesus. No costume, no lasers, no insignia or cool power ring. Just a real man whoís power, from the same Holy Spirit who lives in me, makes Supermanís like that of a dead flea. Seriously. A real man, but One who stepped aside from ownership of His body and His human ability, who relinquished the freedom to analyze which words to say and actions to take, instead walking such a striking, unnatural, non-intuitive path, Iím shaken to the core by the simplicity of His way.
ďDonít you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.Ē ó John 14:10
ďJesus gave them this answer: ĎI tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.íĒ ó John 5:19
ďBy myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.Ē ó John 5:30
Iím blown away. It's reversed; not how I was thinking at all. But still, the idea feels a little elusive, like an echo youíre not sure you really heard, or a wisp of something in the corner of your eye that disappears when you look straight at it. Could it be this power He speaks to me about Iím not able to own or grasp, unlike my hammer or maul? Maybe itís beyond that, not merely a tool I choose from the box and wield to accomplish a purpose. Maybe this Power wields me.
Scripture Taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
Copyright (c) 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.
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Jeffrey, you are a very good writer. This caught my attention from the start (I can remember "cleaning up" my room exactly the same as you, although I was an Archie girl).
You not only caught my attention at the start, but you held it to the end. (And what an end!) Your message was clear and very strong, while appealing to the reader in a very relational way that kept them connected.
I related all too well with this: "I get a little exasperated with Godís methodology, impatient for the rush of knowing Iím doing something significant.
As for your ending, the last two sentences were perfect. They wrapped the message up in the most excellent way. Well done.
The only very minor critique would be to possibly break up that third paragraph a little. (VERY minor thing.)
Keep shining His light through your writing. Deb (FaithWriters.com)