This post is taken from a sermon given on June 16th, 2019
When I was a
kid, I had a huge crush on Superman. The
one played by Christopher Reeve. I
think I was in fifth grade when the movie came out…there was something about
his character: This good looking,
boyish, muscled guy—with a piercingly blue eyes and a certain strength of
character, ready to sweep in to save unsuspecting victims from their impending
back, I wondered what it was that drew me to this character—why was it that I
couldn’t get this character out of my head?
I had a true fifth grade crush!
Was it the
power he wielded? Was it the muscles? Was it the wry smile he flashed before
flying into the wild blue yonder?
No, I don’t
think so. What I remember being so
captivated by, was the scene where Lex Luthor put kryptonite around his neck,
bringing Superman to his knees.
masochistic, doesn’t it?
Well, as I
continue to ponder this question, I think my fascination had more to do with
Superman’s willingness to take the risks necessary to do the right thing, which
often meant becoming vulnerable. Kryptonite signified this vulnerability.
As we know,
Chris Reeve later suffered a horse riding accident which left him a
quadriplegic, and dependent on a ventilator—a situation of real-life magnitude
where he showed tremendous strength and grit in tremendous hardship. You don’t get much more vulnerable than he
was…yet he developed the Reeve Center for Spinal Cord Injury Research. A true hero, after all. Strength in vulnerability all the way to the
it was almost impossible to not get wrapped up in the fervor around the movie “The
Avengers”. Adult boys everywhere
flocked to this movie…showtimes were sold out for weeks in advance. My own hubby bought an “Avengers” T-shirt to
don for the occasion of seeing the movie with a friend. What is it, I’ve always wondered…WHY is it
that men everywhere are drawn to this kind of stuff?
In narrative and comparative mythology, the monomyth, or the hero’s journey, is the common template of a broad category of tales and lore that involves a hero who goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, and then comes home changed or transformed.
In the story
of Iron Man, Tony Stark begins as a selfish genius weapon maker, who, in a time
of crisis, makes something he realizes can truly help the world. Stark shows valor as he hides his creation
from folks who would exploit it for evil.
Eventually, he identifies, publicly, with his heroic alter ego, stating
“I am Iron Man”. With this, he becomes a
sort of cocky son-of-a-gun with a tendency toward over-indulgence and
Tony goes through a transformation into a selfless hero when he sacrifices
himself to save the world.. However,
as he survives this sacrifice, Stark’s selflessness becomes an obsession, as he
becomes a sort of workaholic and his relationships begin to suffer. At last, when forced to save the day without
his “Iron Man” suit, he finally realizes that it is he, not the suit,
that is the hero.
the most important skill and power of the human beings: Intelligence and money. Eventually
he must deal with the legacy he will leave behind which started with his
father. Once referred to as the Merchant of Death, Stark
struggles to change his legacy into something good. In Iron Man 3, Tony begins to confront the
toll his life has taken on him, and the post-traumatic-stress that has believes
he now suffers—understanding the reason for the creation of his “armor” (suit)
in the first place. His comment “You
need to look strong” is something men everywhere identify with. AM I RIGHT??
CAN I GET AN AMEN??
scene in the movie SPIDERMAN, which I used to show on “confirmation” retreats
to ignite discussion, shows the last conversation had between Peter Parker and
his uncle Ben, in the car before Uncle Ben was killed. When Peter confides in his uncle about the
powers he discovers he has, he is given the advice: “With great power comes great
responsibility.” Truths central
to everyday life.
simple, but it’s not. WHY NOT?
As I strive
to understand human nature, particularly nowadays, the ego takes center
stage. Without becoming too
political, I think I can suffice to say that we’ve come into an age where “getting
over”, “winning” and even taking pride in an ability to work the system is
praised. We don’t hear much about the
GOLDEN RULE anymore, but we certainly are witness to a lot of self-promotion.
like Tony Stark reveal this tendency.
But “old fashioned” themes such as truth, dignity, valor, commitment,
self-sacrifice, and integrity win out EVERY. TIME.
in my hometown of Sheboygan, my dad was a gifted athlete. He is currently in the “hall of fame” for his
contribution to softball and is looked up to in the community. As a kid, I think I took this for
granted. He was the guy who folks Relied
upon to hit the ball over the fence.
well, the pressure he would feel if the team was down a point or two and he was
up to bat. All the outfielders would
back up, folks on the bleachers would rumble, folks would cheer. A lot of those times, he WOULD hit it out
of the park. We would win the game! But not always. The pressure he felt to be “the one” to win
the game took its toll. His esteem
suffered as a result, especially as he got older and was probably not as strong
as he used to be. Eventually, dad
struggled with clinical depression.
By the time
I reached middle school he quit playing ball.
Still, he was given the nick name “gentle ben” (a name he never liked)
signifying the temperament he had: A
big, strong guy, with a soft heart. As a kid, I was proud of this. I was proud of him.
Yet, to this
day—still an athlete at heart, my dad will get down on himself if he isn’t up
to par (pun intended) on the golf course, or if he doesn’t perform as well as
he feels he should. He is like so many
of us, deriving a sense of worth by what we DO, rather than WHO we are.
I remember in
high school, one day, my dad made a comment about all of the trophies on the
shelves in the basement. “All of those
trophies…” he said, “they really don’t mean that much to me anymore.”
(pause) “You know what WOULD mean a lot
to me? A ‘good person’ award. That would mean more than anything.”
Father’s Day, my sister and I would give him a bronze-colored trophy. On it was inscribed: “GOOD PERSON AWARD” Love, your girls. I still remember the tears in his eyes as
he opened that gift and read the inscription.
It remains on the mantle above the fireplace in their home to this day.
is my birthday. (Yes, 51…ugh). I was BORN on Father’s Day (And I’m the
oldest, so the reason my dad became a father.).
At our wedding reception, my dad got lots of laughs as he shared how he
“crapped his pants” from anxiety while my mother was giving birth to me. (I on the other hand, wanted to crawl under
the table from embarrassment.)
great power comes great responsibility”.
Parenting is a huge responsibility.
Mentoring is a huge responsibility.
in any form, is a huge responsibility.
business and making ETHICAL decisions is a huge responsibility.
a choice to be compassionate to others, rather than self-centered is a choice,
and one that the HERO makes again and again, story after story.
us….fathers or not–Male, female, or non-binary, are not even aware of the
potential power that we do have embodied within who we are. Like an auger, the courage to tap into our
own vulnerability unearths great power and great wisdom. YES
the things legacies are made of.
is always there. EVERY HERO somehow embraces it.
How will we
use our power?
invitation today, is to consider the byproducts of embracing your own “heroism.”
Think about those affected by your ability to transcend the “self” and embrace
the woundedness of the world we live within.
True STRENGTH comes from within. Not from the need to prove our worth.
Brene’ Brown states: “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.” Truth
and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”
What is your armor? Who is the person behind the mask?