The Prodigal’s Brother

Everyone knows the story of Superman.
If we put aside for the moment any alternate-universe or new-continuum changes, his origin is simple: Two scientists send their infant son Kal-El away in a rocket ship to avoid the catastrophic end to their planet. The ship crash-lands in the middle of Kansas. The Kents, a childless couple with love overflowing, take in the orphan alien boy and raise him as their own…and later discover he has awesome abilities.
From Clark Kent’s perspective, this is arguably not a terrible burden to bear.
Sure, he was originally an orphan, but he couldn’t remember any of that directly. After that, he was brought up as an only child, showered in love—not an uncomfortable life. Even his choice to conceal his power from the world isn’t that bad, since those powers—super strength, invulnerability, flight, and, depending on which universe you’re following, many more—are so cool!
But really, when you compare Superman’s origins with those of other A-list heroes, his story isn’t all that tragic. Batman watched his parents get gunned down in front of him. Spider-Man has the weight of his Uncle Ben’s death on his shoulders. The real alien orphan tragedy is Martian the Manhunter, who lived through the destruction of his home world.
Often, this distinction between characters wrought by tragedy and those who simply choose to be heroic feels like my story.
I was raised in a solid Christian home. I went to church every Wednesday and Sunday at the very least. I served my congregation diligently ever since I was young. I was baptized at the ripe age of 10, and have devoted my heart to seeking Jesus ever since.
Mine is not a tear-jerker testimony. This is great for me, of course, since I have been able to mature as a Christian over most of my life, and I’ve come far. But when I hear other people’s tales of faith, dotted with calamity and life-changing experiences, I feel rather small. After all, what is my weak testimony worth next to someone who overcame deep loss, terminal disease, deadly addiction, and abuse to come to God?
Let me be clear: I’m not saying I wish my life was harder, or that I encourage indulging in the flesh in order to craft a better spiritual resume. I’m just saying if my faith were a comic book, it would be something more along the lines of Squirrel Girl than the hearty, gut-wrenching tale of Magneto who lived through the Holocaust.
This feeling of inadequacy reminds me of a few Biblical passages.
The first, of course, is that of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). We all know the story—the younger brother takes his half of the inheritance, runs off to waste it on meaningless debauchery, and then comes home full of regret to be greeted by the open arms of his loving father.
In my low, petty moments, I feel like the prodigal’s brother—the dutiful son who stayed loyal and responsible, and feels the need to ask why he never got a feast like that in his honor.
But that’s not the point of the story, because I’m also reminded of other passages.
Jesus said, “Come to Me like little children” (Matthew 19:14). Proverbs 22:6 says, “Raise them up in the way they should go, and when they are grown, they will not turn from Your ways.” Best of all, in Hebrews 6:10 it says, “For God is not unjust! He will not forget your work and the love you showed for His name when you served the saints – and you continue to serve them!”
The testimonies of those who are mature in the faith, even from very young ages, are not worthless. In fact, we are the fulfilled promise of those who came before us—those who chose the Lord and trained their children in the way they should go.
What greatness is this! It’s certainly nothing to be ashamed about. After all, God has designed each of us with our own testimonies in mind for a specific purpose—actually, many specific purposes—and we wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we didn’t seek after Him in whatever ways He has directed us to go, regardless of how our lives compare with others. We are not them, and they are not us.
Just because Superman was raised in a cozy home in Kansas doesn’t make him any less of a hero than Batman.

Annie Pasquinelli

Annie M. Pasquinelli is the worship and media director at a small church in Eugene, Oregon and the author of the Fearless Nine book series about a team of faith-based superheroes. She is also a scuba diver and a graduate of Oregon State University.

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