We Could Be Heroes, Forever And Ever

Superman or Batman?

It’s one of those great questions, like The Beatles or Elvis? (My second Elvis reference today; happy 75th birthday, King!) You may not be passionate about one or the other, but you have to like one better than the other, and which you prefer says something about who you are.

Me, I feel like Superman is the better answer. There’s something noble and optimistic about picking Superman.

Personally, I’m a Batman guy.

For all that I respect choosing Superman, I lean toward the Dark Knight, myself. And the basic reason is this. Say you’re a bank robber, and Superman shows up to stop you. You’ve already lost. He won the day he was born. He’s risking nothing to stop you. He wins by virtue of who he is.

Now, Batman, he’s risking something. Theoretically, you could beat him. You could kill him. He’s mortal, vulnerable. He beats you because he wants it more. He tries harder. He works harder than you. He studies harder. None of us could be Superman. Any of us could be Batman, if we were willing.

In case you haven’t guessed by now, this is my first entry in my series about spiritual deconstruction series. This week, the topic is heroes. Next week, sermons. Feel free to join me in blogging through the series.

I’ve always struggled with the idea of who my heroes are, had a hard time identifying them. There’s my old editor, Jim Abbott, but I’ve written about him before so shan’t go into that here.

Since coming to NASA, the issue of heroes has been even more interesting, because I’ve had the opportunity to meet some people who could have held that title, and get to know them as human beings. Very human beings. I’ve had a conversation before about Neil Armstrong. I’ve never met him, and, to be honest, don’t know that I would want to. Part of me likes the idea of him remaining larger-than-life, somewhat mythical and legendary.

And then there’s the standard guy answer about heroes — my dad. And, you know, I respect my dad a lot. He’s accomplished a lot in life and is pretty succesful at what he does. Any time I’m tempted to measure myself against that — well, you know, I’ve been editor of a paper and written a book — I realize that he still wins. Not only has he accomplished everything he has, but he raised a guy that was editor of a paper and wrote a book.

But he also is very human; in some ways that I really wish I hadn’t inherited. But the thing I respect most about my dad is this — it’s been really cool to watch him grow up. He’s changed over the years, and has worked on those flaws. He’s an inspiration in that respect, particularly since I’ve struggled with some of the same things. If he can do it, I can. I’m proud of him.

I had to deal with the issue of the humanity and heroes recently when I had a pastor I respect tell me I should listen to him instead of God. I’ve learned a good deal from the man, and that made me briefly question the validity of those things. But the truth is, that wisdom doesn’t come from man anyway. It comes from man allowing himself to be used. And I respect this pastor allowing God to speak through him, regardless.

It reminded me of a discussion I had in Sunday School a couple of years ago, that somehow involved what we would think if we saw our teacher at a bar with another woman drinking a beer, and went from there into what to make of people who were reached by a pastor who cheated on his wife with a member of the church staff. And the question was asked whether God could really use people who were so flawed. And my answer, which I stand by, is that certainly God can use flawed people, because that’s all He has to work with.

And, that, ultimately, is where this post is going. My current pastor at Sojourn has talked about this a good bit recently, and I’ve had related discussions with my discipleship leader, about how flawed so many of the “heroes” in the Bible are. And the Sojourn pastor put it aptly — it’s because they aren’t the heroes of those stories, God is.

And, that, then, is the coda of this piece. That, maybe, is what a hero is to me now — someone who isn’t the hero of the story. I can’t imagine anyone ever looking at my life and wanting to be like me, but, should it ever happen, I would want it to be because I’d finally reached the point where I’ve learned how to just get out of His way.

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