When I was a kid, I loved superheroes. I had a large toy box in my bedroom with no toys in it 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, "I told you to pick up your comics, not read them." "But I haven't read this one in a long time!" It had been at least a week.
Now as an adult, I have matured far beyond such fanciful pursuits NOT. Seriously, I really enjoy reading superhero comic books to this day, and I know I'm not alone (come on, guys!). Most excluding graphic novels are around twenty pages or so, with five to ten frames per page, sometimes less. I can "Flash" (sorry) through one in twenty to thirty minutes, if uninterrupted. They truly are like cotton candy in print colorful, sweet but they don't 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, there's 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. They're 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, I'm not afraid to say it 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 isn't just mindless testosterone and grunting as many have portrayed it; we cheer because he's doing what we long to do, being who we long to be. It's 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 I've been rescued from sin's condemning effect, my flesh often persuades me to try generating the power I seek on my own. I get a little exasperated with God's methodology, impatient for the rush of knowing I'm doing something significant. So, at some point, I grab hold of what I can find. Maybe I'll dust off my tools and build those shelves or the cabinet I've had on my to-do list for a year. Or I'll 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 it feels good, right? And they're 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 God's word and pray for clarity, and honestly, for some confirmation. And the Lord doesn't disappoint. In fact, He's pleased, and it's just fine that I want to fulfill my design. But He prods me, and I sense there is a power so superior to what I've been chasing, so astounding and marvelous, yet requiring much less stress and strain than I've 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 who's power, from the same Holy Spirit who lives in me, makes Superman's 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, I'm shaken to the core by the simplicity of His way.
"Don't 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." John 14:10
"Jesus gave them this answer: 'I 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.'" John 5:19
"By 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." John 5:30
I'm blown away. It's reversed; not how I was thinking at all. But still, the idea feels a little elusive, like an echo you're 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 I'm not able to own or grasp, unlike my hammer or maul? Maybe it's 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.
Writing since 2000, I live in the Seattle area with my wife and three children. My passion is to draw others to a more intimate knowledge & love of Jesus through fiction & non-fiction. To contact me, you may send an IM from my FW profile page or visit my website below.