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We’re Not The Hero and That’s Okay

 Like many in the realm of geek culture my love for superheroes started at a very a young age. Although, it didn’t start in the stereotypical, boy-walks-into-comic-book-shop way that you may see in different forms of media. I wouldn’t read an actual comic book till later on in life.  So, my exposure initially came from thirty minute increments of flashing lights on the weekends. Saturday Morning cartoons were the gateway drug that started an ‘addiction’ that would last even up till the present day.

It was the early two thousands,  the bowl-cut was still in (at least if you were a small child ) and I rocked it proudly as I flipped through the stations bored out of my mind. After what seemed like an hour of mindless button pressing, I landed on Toon Disney. Except, this wasn’t the same channel I saw on weekday afternoons. Shows like Pepper Ann and Teacher’s Pet were replaced by Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends and several  Power Ranger seasons.  I was hooked from the introductions alone.

 

These early moments would lead to me crave more shows. Luckily, other channels also played similar reruns and released their own comic book based shows.  Soon,  it seemed like there was no limit to the time I could spend glued to the talking box . 

But there was something deeper going on than just an infatuation  . I didn’t just want to watch the heroes, I wanted to be one. So much so in fact that I pretended that I was fighting crime . In my head, I was Iceman from The X-Men, The Blue Power Ranger, and sometimes even my own creations.  Those early exposures opened the door to something that I think we all have in us, something that is almost innate.

 Throughout history, we see the archetype of the hero get played out over and over again. This isn’t something that came on to the scene when Jack Kirby and Stan Lee picked up pens.  Those before us seemed to be enamored by them too. Look through any culture and any mythology and you’re bound to find someone who fits the hero mold. Sometimes, these characters are normal people like us and other times they’re something more, beings filled with powers not unlike modern superheroes.

I believe these characters are so prevalent through our history as a people because, we long to be like them. There is a drive in all of us to be more than what we are. Our goal is often to be larger than life. This sometimes means that we wish to swoop in to save the day for ourselves and others. The desire to be someone who can change things in an instant is strong in us. We long to be the heroes of our own stories. 

Yet, if we’re being honest with ourselves, none of us are the hero. We wish we were and often try to be but we end up failing. So, like those before us we hook ourselves onto fantastic tales of fictional, almighty characters that are written to save the day.

We aren’t the hero and that’s okay.

The good news is that there is a hero that actually exists not just in some comic book or apart of some block buster movie starring Robert Downey Jr.  We are told of his story through scripture. 

 The Book of Genesis tells of the fall of man,  in which mankind rebels against God and commits an act we call sin.  Through this sin came death as Romans 5:12 tells us:

12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.

Humanity became lost, separated from the very God that created them and waiting for eternal damnation in The Lake of Fire. Yet, even in the early moments after man’s fall, God says something spectacular. He tells of one who would come along to save us. When talking to Satan in the garden He says this:

Genesis 3:15

15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall [a]bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.”

 

This is the very first reference to what Jesus Christ would come to do. It is often called ‘The protevengelium’ meaning the first gospel. 

Later on in scripture, God sends his only son,  to not only die on a cross but also resurrect from the dead,  Romans 4:25 says :

 

25 He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.

 

This is the hope that we have in Christ Jesus, Our Lord and Savior. We have an assurance that we won’t face being separated from The Father for all eternity in The Lake Of Fire. We will spend eternity with our God.

We aren’t the hero but we should rejoice in the truth that God sent His Son who is.

 

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No Achievements Required

We have quite a few themes in November: Thanksgiving, NaNoWriMo, Peanut Butter Lovers Month – where do I start?

It IS National Novel Writing Month (though I think Peanut Butter Lovers Month is severely under-celebrated), and we of the word-crafting ilk sometimes use this month to challenge ourselves to a goal of higher output. Crank out more than 1,000 words a day and get that novel DONE!

The problem I experienced pursuing this goal was the cold, hard truth of never EVER achieving 1,000 words per day. On any given day I’d have work, chores, errands, social events, and that ever-obnoxious need to feed oneself (with peanut butter) intervening with my expectations as a writer. And even if I made it to something like 800 words – so? That’s still 200 short!

The anxiety to achieve left me joyless. I even began to believe my output was directly correlated to how pleased God was with me for using my gift. I didn’t believe there was grace for anytime I failed.

But God seems relentless in displaying His grace anyway.

On a recent Sunday morning I was getting ready for church when I realized my boyfriend would be arriving soon to head out with me to service. They tell you relationships take work, so I was always prepared to put in the hours. Thing is, I already had in mind – from stereotypes and observations of other relationships – what sort of work I’d have to do.

It would never cross my mind that the simple moment when my love showed up at my door I’d be thinking, “I’m not ready to socialize yet.” And that would be my work.

I’ve lived on my own for a decade, no roommates aside from a rather mild pet snake who takes up the space of a terrarium in my “guest room” (a.k.a. “room I’d hoped to make a writer’s haven but is really just a space for stuff I don’t use” #morewriterfailure). I go out, I enjoy time spent with friends and family, but otherwise…I’ve spent most of my days alone and am already deeply introverted.

I mentally stumbled through that morning. My emotions went all over, though I kept them tightly contained. How am I supposed to do this? I thought. And how could I ever explain this type of distress without sounding like an incapable weirdo?

We went to church, and I still wrestled with wildly competing feelings, still trying my best to fight through to a sense of normalcy – my man standing next to me probably having little idea of what was going on inside. We worshiped, we sat, and the pastor began to speak.

Within the first fifteen minutes he referenced the verse, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) It wasn’t by any merit of our own we were allowed this grace and resurrection, and I realized – it’s not by any solo effort I’ll “perfect” my approach to relationship (or writing), either. It was God’s revelation to me to say, “I can’t do this,” and lean into Him for what He would provide.

And He does provide – even a little time each day to write at least 100 words on a project. (That’s 36,500 a year, you know. Nothing to sneeze at.) I still sometimes catch myself “telling” more than praying to God that I’ll do better so I can – what? Impress Him? Prove He doesn’t have to worry? It results in rather one-sided conversations.

On another Sunday – evening, this time – my love and I watched Coco together and asked each other what legacy we’d want our family to remember us for. I still went to achievements: “I want to be remembered for the stories I told.” He said to me, “I want to be remembered as a man who genuinely loved his wife.”

It’s seriously on no merit that I deserve this man, but…maybe that’s been God’s point all along. (All y’all saps can start melting now.)

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Command? >Fight >Item >Run >Love

The thing about being an INFJ is random bumper stickers seen on my drive home will send me into deep philosophical musings.

“♥ God, ♥ People” the sticker on the truck ahead of me said. How funny someone feels the need to tell me and other drivers to do that, I thought. A non-believer wouldn’t see the use in loving a God who isn’t real to them, and as for believers – isn’t that the point to our belief?

But then I realized – it actually is given to us as a command: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5). We have to be commanded to love God? I can understand being commanded to love others (which I’ll get to in a moment), but why would God command us to love Him when we know His own character demonstrates He is for our good?

Of course, we also know our own hearts are not so steadfast, and, like the Israelites of Old Testament times, we easily divert our devotion to lesser pleasures of the moment. Material items, selfish goals, pure obstinacy… It’s like running after the piddling side quests in a game while the main quest waits an illogical amount of time for your attention.

Whatever, Zelda, I’ll save Hyrule after I’ve found 900 more Korok seeds.

In an RPG, when you input a command for a party member, they follow it exactly as you specify (barring status effects). While humans are not pixelated algorithms set to obey a designated pattern, we do tend to move either toward a more disciplined frame of life or away from it. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are followers of what has the strongest command over our choices.

Love is presented to us as an action that remains despite feelings, an action we are told to stick with in order to grow and mature in our faith and relationships. We are called to love God and his created people, even when we’d rather distract ourselves with shinier things or drag our feet when it’s hard.

Which brings me to the second part of that bumper sticker…

Do you know who will tell you to love people? Most people. From nearly any religion, any sect, any race. Anyone would tout that bumper sticker-offered challenge. We desire and see the need to be loved on a global scale. But how does it work out on human ability alone? We’re no doubt capable of great good and great charity. Facebook overflows with stories of kindness toward those in need – even to the smallest animals.

But love on individual terms can just as equally do harm. One group openly mocks and insults another group for not loving enough or in “the right way”. Between the hopeful videos shared on Facebook are memes trolling the opinions of others not deemed suitably tolerant/sympathetic/you name it.

What would you choose when faced with a challenge?

I admit, my own sin is an action command leaning toward >Run when faced with the opportunity to love someone in a real and personal way. What would I say? What if there was nothing I could do for them? What if they reject me? My own love falls short when I rely solely on my power.

But Jesus did also command “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39), and he exemplified that in all its beautiful, difficult nuances. Truth and compassion are both necessities. When I read the Gospels, I marvel at how seamlessly Jesus blended the two.

I don’t believe love is a human invention. It isn’t something we exhibit with any amount of ease. But God gave us a love to practice and then share: He knew it was the necessary command which would progress and complete the quest.

As for my own journey, I’ve lately been drawn to books celebrating community – people who must live in close circles, interact daily, form bonds through or in spite of trying circumstances. The idea begins to appeal to me, though I know it won’t be so easy as these fictional stories play it out. Could these books and that truck’s bumper sticker be the Holy Spirit’s tug on the heart of a woman who spends far too much time in her own brain? Maybe it’s time I pursue some new action commands and take Love to a world that needs it.

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The Key to Perfect Obedience

Achievements. 100%’s. Perfect runs. Full completion is so delicious, isn’t it? The feeling of doing everything right.

I’ve been developing my tactical skills in Fire Emblem lately – a series I’ve watched with a curious eye for years but only now decided to experience for myself. (You fellow fans can thank my boyfriend for that.) I already refuse to allow any party members perma-death (so many restarts…), but I also refuse any secrets to be spoiled for me on this first play through – which means I’m missing side quests. And items. And it isn’t a perfect run.

This is surprisingly bothersome.

A friend questioned me a while ago on something I’d written about our obedience to Christ coming out of love. And as in so many things, after playing some video games I now have something to say. Mind you, I’m just a young whippersnapper working out my faith (but aren’t we all whippersnappers to somebody?), so the Holy Spirit may lead me to different convictions as I grow.

John 14-17 are some of my favorite passages in the Bible. I find comfort and reassurance in these words Christ spoke before his crucifixion. (How amazing that moments before he would suffer terribly, our Savior was working instead to bring peace to us.) In one particularly bleak struggle with my sense of spiritual commitment, I came across John 14:15

“If you love me, keep my commands.”

Other translations offer the very slight difference, “If you love me, you will keep my commands.” I’d always read this with a peer pressure tone – you know, the way “friends” try to get you to do things for them. “If you’re my buddy, you’ll give me the candy bar in your lunch.”

So Jesus became this cosmic bully to me. My solution: “I’m going to obey everything so Jesus knows I love him and so I can be on his good side.” Be chaste. Love others. Have unlimited amounts of patience. Put others before yourself. Make sure no one perma-dies. Don’t overlook any sidequests or recruits. (Oops, am I blurring realities now?)

But in all this…did I actually love Jesus? Or was I putting the cart before the horse? I didn’t do any of it with a full and confident heart. Mostly, I was stressed out – much like I am at the end of some Fire Emblem maps, wondering what I missed and what I could have achieved.

Jesus didn’t say, “If you keep my commands, you will love me.” The prerequisite is love. It’s intimately knowing the Savior’s character and choosing him when you personally understand his goodness and love for you. The thing about the bully approach is – if you aren’t that kid’s buddy, and you know he’s manipulative, you don’t have to give him jack squat.

I realized I needed to swap my thinking – and after years of reading the Bible looking for what I needed to “do better”, I read it to know the God I’d only pretended to trust for so long. When you love someone in authority, the choice to obey may still at times be difficult, but there’s gratitude in the action, and an understanding that this person is for your good.

It’s still tough to switch the thinking. At the start of every day I typically go straight for, “What do I need to do today?” rather than, “What do I need to know about God today?”. Best to seek that relationship before I assume what He wants.

And, you know, I can always play through Fire Emblem better next time…*neurotic perfectionist twitch*

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Being Choosey in Love

Shout out to all you long-time Harvest Mooners, reaping your pixelated produce, foraging in the mountains, and selecting a spouse from your choice of personalities and pretty faces – LONG before those copycat farm games started cropping up. (See what I did there?)

Thanks, Gill.

Choice is a glorious aspect of video games, isn’t it? (Unless you’re playing Dragon Quest, in which case “But thou must”!) With Valentine’s Day behind us, some who wait for love may be wishing for available choices themselves. In the meantime, it sure is nice to pick up those games where you can woo that character you adore – the one who’s so gorgeous, who warms to you tsundere-like or gushes straightaway. The one who says all the right things – well…with some arrogant exceptions.

Once married, you just have to go through two dialogue boxes with your loved one each morning, and your partnership is gold. Now you can get on with havin’ a couple babies and buying some cows. No more choices needed, right?

Ah, but in reality, there are choices every day – many times a day, even – to work for or against your relationship. To consider what you’ll surrender, and where you’ll stand your ground. To learn, to understand, to work.

Last year around this time I wrote an article on contentment in all relationship statuses, because in the end we are God’s beloved and bride, pledged to Him in His limitless love no human relationship could match. Well…just about half a year later, I officially entered a romantic relationship of my own. You can’t tell me God doesn’t have a sense of humor.

(In case you were wondering, my beau often appears down in the comments – my devoted and outspoken fan. ;-P )

And while our Savior’s love can’t be matched by even the most ardent human effort, our earthly relationships are still a mirror of His ultimate plan. Now, what I say next comes with this caveat: I’m new to the romantic scene and know I have much to learn. But choices are ingrained in all relationships – whether with Christ or with those he places in our lives. We think of “choosiness” in terms of setting good standards, perusing our available “market”, deciding what we want in a partner and what are our “dealbreakers”. (You might want to consider arrogance in that category.)

Once you’ve gone through every point on your checklist and manage to snag someone who makes your heart flutter – guess what? They’re still imperfect. You’re still imperfect. You’ll disagree. You’ll hurt each other. You’ll see more differences than you thought were there before. What do you choose in your lowest moments? In theirs?

Our culture is rife with the idea that eros solves everything. To choose to stay in a relationship even when events turn slightly disagreeable is taboo. Have you noticed there are also those who flit from faith to faith, looking for the one that makes them feel “best”? We’re conditioned to want only the “feels” without the growth.

Now, I don’t think any rational, God-fearing single person looks to relationships to feel complete. But…I still had my preconceptions. That it would always be seamless. That every step in the process would come naturally. In truth, it still takes decision – and it takes a faith in Christ at the core.

Choosing a romance with perfect dialogue trees is a gamer’s fantasy. It’s far lovelier and God-honoring when two imperfect people come together with the intent to grow, pursue faith, and learn from each other. Once you’ve chosen your significant other, keep choosing – you may still have years of harvest to reap.