Monday, January 25, 2016

Batman and Goliath

Superman, Spider-man, Arrow, Iron Man - it seems like superheros are everywhere you turn these days, from TV to the big screen, and every year there are just more and more! In a couple months, they'll be releasing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which has already had so much hype, it's sure to be a box office smash! Later this year, there will be new movies for Captain America, the X-men, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; meanwhile, Supergirl got her own TV series recently, DC's Legends of Tomorrow TV series has just kicked off, and The Flash is currently in his second season - just to name a few!

It seems that people today just can't get enough of their comic book favorites, and I think there's good reason behind it. When you get right down to it, superhero stories are great because of what they offer...

When you go to a superhero movie, you know from the beginning that you're going to see crazy costumes, a little humor, and lots of action. You know that the villain is going to have some wile, maniacal scheme to bring about utter chaos and take over the world. And you know that, when it's all said and done, no matter how evil the villain is, no matter how insurmountable and overwhelming the odds seem to be, in the end, someone is going to rise above it all, perhaps even at great personal cost, and they will emerge victorious to restore the world to the way it ought to be! Even if total victory is not achieved in this episode or this particular film in the series, we will keep coming back because we know that somehow, it will work out, and we want to be there to see how it's done!

What it all boils down to, I believe, is a message of HOPE!

We live in a world, after all, that has a lot in common with a superhero's world. There seems to be a lot of chaos in our world - terrorists, crazy dictators, corrupt politicians - and even in the personal realm, there are a lot of unknowns. Perhaps your arch-enemy is a teacher or boss or co-worker who just doesn't understand, or maybe you're facing a super-villain like cancer or looming bankruptcy. And I think the superhero stories are attractive to so many people because it's a way for them to say (even if it's all subconscious), "Look at _____! Their problems seemed to be so big, but they overcame the odds... and so can I!"

There's nothing wrong with that! People have been telling "superhero" stories for centuries for that same purpose! Sometimes the heroes were made-up characters like Jack (who climbed the magical beanstalk) or Hercules. Sometimes the heroes were real-life figures - military leaders, knights, etc. 

David vs. Goliath - a superhero story of Biblical proportions!
When you turn to the story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17, there's a tale that has all the makings of a superhero adventure! David is a lowly shepherd boy whose bigger brothers have joined Israel's army in their fight against the Philistines. Goliath, the Philistine warrior, is a giant so big and strong that all the Israelites are terrified and no one wants to accept his challenge to battle. When David sees what's going on, he knows something has to be done, so he decides that HE will fight the giant! But nobody thinks he can win. The king tries to put him in a suit of armor, but the armor is so heavy, David can't even walk in it. Instead of riding into battle like a soldier, then, David goes down to the creek and picks up some rocks, and he runs to meet the giant armed with nothing but a stone and a sling! Yet somehow, when he lets that rock fly, it strikes Goliath right between the eyes, and the giant falls!

Children love that story, and we continue to share it over and over because it's inspirational. "You, too, can defeat life's biggest, baddest giants with God's help!"

One of my favorite things about David, though, is something he shares in common with my favorite of the comic book superheroes, Batman. See, Batman doesn't have any super powers. He can't fly. He doesn't have X-ray vision. For all intents and purposes, he is a "normal" person who simply has to rely on his wits and athleticism (and some pretty cool gadgets!) in order to beat the bad guys. And from the beginning, his story is one that highlights human fears and vulnerabilities. Even though he's born to inherit a fortune, he sees his parents murdered right in front of him. Even though he eventually takes down all kinds of outrageous villains (be it the Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, or any of a host of others), he often finds himself in situations where his life is on the line. He's not perfect. He makes mistakes. But he learns from his failures and grows along the way until he comes out victorious!

One of my personal favorites,
Adam West as Batman in 1966
And like Batman, David's story is one that mixes victories with brokenness over and over. When Samuel came to anoint the one who would be king after Saul, David's father didn't think enough of him to even call him from the field at first. Even after Samuel anointed David, he didn't become king right away, but he also didn't do anything to make himself king; instead, he had to wait for God's timing, not becoming king until after Saul died several years later. In fact, after the heroic scene where he slew Goliath, instead of letting David enjoy his victory, Saul became jealous and on several occasions tried to kill him! Then, even when David had ascended to the throne, we all know the story of how David was brought low again when he fell into the sin of adultery with Bathsheba. This is the man who wrote large portions of the book of Psalms and went on to be known as a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22), yet many of the psalms show David in tears, confessing his sins and asking for God's forgiveness and help.

Victories and vulnerabilities.

This is the David I can identify with - not the shepherd who brings down a giant with a rock and a sling, but the guy who sometimes feels like he's being passed over, the guy who maybe struggles to understand God's timing, the guy who sees his shortcomings more clearly than his successes. And maybe you can identify with these feelings, too.

When I was a kid, my Dad was a superhero. I can remember, at 6 or 7 years old, being AMAZED at how big his muscles were, and thinking, "If only I could grow up to be big and strong like him!" Now, if you asked him, I'm sure he would tell you he's no Superman. I remember him coming to me a couple times and apologizing for not being the best dad, but to me - I was like, "What are you talking about? You're the best dad in the world!"

To an extent, I think it's a matter of perspective. Maybe you're so close, all you can see are your flaws, but you don't see the ways that you're already a hero in someone else's eyes! And it's OK to see the flaws and know where we want to improve, but if David's story teaches us anything, it's that you don't have to be perfect today in order to be a winner!

I think that's what's truly great about David's story. He teaches us that, even if things don't go the way they should today, the most important things are to keep our faith in God, to depend on him to keep his promises and work things out according to his plan, and then to be willing to confess our shortcomings and keep going.

Yes, there may be times when you feel small and you have to face some pretty big giants. We all have our limitations, vulnerabilities, and fears to deal with. But just like we tell the kids when we read the story of David and Goliath, with God's help, you CAN overcome!

Decide today - right now - to be strong, to trust in the Lord, to confess your faults and keep pressing on.

     Be an overcomer!

          Be a hero!

                    Just like David...

                              ...or Batman!

You might also like these superhero-themed posts I've written:
* Jesus Christ, Superman - Part 1 - A father's only son comes to earth to save humanity!
* Jesus Christ, Superman - Part 2 - Sacrifice, forgiveness, and redemption... in Smallville
* My Spider-Sense is Tingling -  You are being transformed, one way or another
* Holy Metaphors, Batman! - Lessons about spiritual warfare from The Dark Knight Rises
* A Super Symbol of Hope - How Superman's 'S' shield points to the cross, and other neat things

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