When Your Heroes Don’t Measure Up
It’s standard fare for superhero movies. Hero (whoever he/she is, Ironman, Thor, Captain America, Spiderman, etc…) discovers great power, uses it effectively, rendering him/her a super hero. But then the phenomenally super hero experiences a crisis wherein his superhero status is challenged by someone or something for which his powers prove ineffective. Hero, to gain super status once again, must overcome said challenge by digging deep and finding unrealized super ingenious workaround to the challenge for which his powers have been inoperable.
We love these things. Over the last decade plus, Marvel has done a marvelous job capitalizing on our fondness for such epics. Avengers alone grossed nearly a billion and a half dollars. We long for heroes. There are certainly times in life in which we wish an Ironman could appear on the scene to mop up a horrific situation. Furthermore, who wouldn’t want the superhuman ability to fly around in that trick suit? In fact — no lie — my 3 1/2 year-old son just came up to tell me, “Dad, my name is Superman!” which is a change, since for the last two weeks we’ve been unable to call him Ethan, as his name has been Captain America.
Yes, we recognize that such superheroes are fictional fare. Frankly, I’m fine with that. If the superheroes were real, then their counterparts, super-villians, would be also, and life is bad enough without Frost Giants. This doesn’t however diminish the desire for heroes.
The scriptures present a long list of individuals to look up to. Men, and women, who did phenomenal things. Certainly Hebrews 11 exhibits an exceptional list of names. Church history over the last 2 millennia has supplied many individuals for consideration. Secular histories too. The reality is, I find myself often looking for figures who’s lives are visible now; heroes with skin, if you will. For me, such heroes would be individuals that have trod a well worn path of service to God, and done so with excellence.
Over the last 15 years or so, there have been a number of individuals that have occupied that space for me. For one reason or another I’ve allowed these persons an elevated place in my mind; yes, a pedestal. Often they have been individuals that have been successful in ministry, having taken steps of faith that [apparently] involved a level of risk. But the fact is, the closer you come to anyone, the more you see their inconsistencies, perhaps even their failures. I mean, isn’t that one of the downsides to HD TV? Who really wants to see virtually every blemished pore of the anchors on the news or the actors on TV?
I must confess, there have been times, even recently, in which I feel almost let down by the fact that such individuals are… well, only human. That, in actuality, the “superpower” that they “possessed,” I observed or even esteemed in them, seems to disappear in the face of [somewhat] unexceptional humanity. Truth is, such “power” had very little to do with them. What I was actually in awe of, amazed by or respected in these heroes was Christ in them, in spite of the earthiness of the earthen vessel.
Realizations such as these are reminders to remain humble. They are a reminder for me — a pastor — to live at the level of those I lead. As leaders we cannot completely prevent others from placing us upon a pedestal, but we can determine to not cater to it. Pretentiousness is sin, and the more transparent that I become, the more of Christ people will see.
Miles, I have wondered before about men like Hudson Taylor, DL Moody, Adoniram Judson, Jonathan Edwards, etc. Were they really as their biographies portray them? If we had access to the private person in the way that we have access today, would it be a different story – not in terms of what they accomplished (that’s a public record), but in terms of who they were. A few years ago I read a biography about Amy Carmichael that was quite frank about some of her thoughts and ways. I concluded that I wouldn’t want to work for or with her. But I’m glad she did what she did.
It is good to be weaned off of men and no longer suckle at their (un)holy teets.
Sorry – the last sentence in my previous post is rather jarring. I apologize.
I actually liked your last sentence… greatly!
It is certainly true. I’m sure there were things about the Apostle Paul that would have totally irritated us, had we worked with him. Everyone has their feeble failings.
I was listening to a call in show on KWVE where the hosts were sincerely trying to help a caller, encouraging them to put on the armor of God every morning. The way they described it, however, sounded more like an adult sized version of the Captain America costume.
Years ago there was a Sunset magazine model home open to the public and I did a walkthrough. It was really impressive in design and technology and a great showcase for the vendors that participated.
I’m kind of like Ezra/Nehemiah coming back to Jerusalem… ruins, debris… harassed by ‘nations’ and so look for a model home to walk through, look at construction, styling (follow me as I follow Christ)… and find open holes, flooring torn up, needless damage… and, yeah, I’m looking at ruins, but I know that’s not right and certainly don’t want to incorporate that into my place.
You talk about Heb 11 and I think of David’s mighty men… I mean, Navy Seal.. I’m excited to see/hear the parallels… weapons, tactics, etc. Karate dude… okay, some hand to hand… but instead, get a plastic m-16 from Toyz-R-Us and locked out of the studio for being too rough… actually hitting….
So, yeah I apologize for bringing those expectations with me. I don’t think of David as an elevated figure, a man after God’s own heart, but rather I want to know what he knew about God when facing the giant, battling the Philistines and dealing with Saul, so that once the beam is dealt with I can help others with the motes.
Tim & Miles…. very well said ! We are all our Shepherd’s sheep. He leads, we all follow Him.
Good article Miles. When I was young, I had heros much like Ethan does, the larger than life, comic book variety. Of course like most Christians I hold up the men and women of the bible and am amazed at some of their achievements with God’s help.
Today however, my heros are much smaller in earthly terms, often people who are suffering and yet holding on to Jesus through their dreadful circumstances. Right now my hero is Lily, she is battling cancer for the 3rd time and is a young mother of 4 children. She radiates the love of Christ and humbly asks for prayer as she realizes that every moment she needs His help and strength. I want to be like Lily and so many others that are enduring hardship victoriously, trusting that the trials however hard, are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in heaven.
Please add Lily to your prayer list, I am asking for her miraculous healing, knowing He is able and trusting in His perfect will.