The automatic doors hummed open, and our eyes smiled with connection – a young boy, of about 5 years, and myself. His mom, nearby, leaned on their cart, fishing for keys and handling life’s latest on her cell phone.
Waiting beside her, I know he saw me coming. He saw me with my cart full of groceries and my mind busy with thought. So, he thought of a plan he could initiate quick.
His expression turned stern as he methodically focused on my approach. My distracted gaze turned into curious wonder. He planted his feet wide and placed his little hands straight together, as if to say a prayer over his heart.
There was a pause. A wait, if you will, for my exact “exit” moment. As the doors buzzed open, he flung his arms out wide with power, and a “whoosh” sound sailed from his lips. In his marvelous imagination, his superhero capabilities had opened those automated doors for me.
Together in the moment, our grins escaped us.
This small superhero brightened my ordinary day. My own kids, now in college, were also once young, versatile characters – routinely becoming ninjas, magicians, pirates, or superheroes at the drop of a hat. This little boy reminded me of them and of all the adventures we shared as they were growing up.
My tense, busy thoughts slipped away as memories of lighter moments took their place. Suddenly, the importance of my to-do list paled in comparison to enjoying the moments of my day. I hope, maybe, by playing along, I improved my young hero’s day as well.
Can you remember a recent encounter with a superhero? Most likely, your encounter was not with someone possessing door opening powers (sorry, maybe next time). More likely, it was witnessing someone taking a stand for something they believe in, providing a helping hand, or sharing knowledge they possess.
Have you ever thought about how you use your superhero power?
Some people have jobs which are heroic in nature like firefighters, the military, health care workers, shelter administrators, teachers, and pastors. Their superhero identities and powers are public knowledge – as with Ironman or Captain America.
But, the rest of us, like the majority of superheroes, have hidden identities and powers – more like Superman, Batman, or Spiderman. The fact that our powers are not readily apparent does not make them any less valuable. They lie beneath the surface and emerge in many roles such as: parent, friend, child, artist, volunteer, advocate, patient, customer, employer, or team member.
Our powers are actions we are gifted in like: truly listening, showing encouragement, offering guidance, providing resources, demonstrating strength, inspiring change, or recognizing the good in others. Those around us have a true need for these elements of our character, and they thrive because of our efforts.
We can be superheroes in whatever we do, wherever we are.
My encounter at the grocery store reminded me that each of us is born with motivation to live like a superhero. Have you ever met a child who did not pretend to save the planet from something evil? I have not.
Human beings have an innate drive to save.
Somewhere along the way, for many of us though, that drive gets buried. It gets buried under the responsibilities and insecurities this world dumps on us. That’s life. But, you know, like any fantastic superhero story, we can rise out of the rubble and reclaim our strength.
How do we live like superheroes?
I like to learn by example. And, some of the greatest historical examples of people becoming superheroes are found in the Bible. Each of them offers lessons to help refine our character, but the ultimate example of a superhero found in the Bible – Christians believe that to be Jesus.
Throughout Jesus’ life, he modeled many heroic qualities, and he left us with a mission to live our lives more like his. After searching Scripture for instructions on how to live like Jesus, I zeroed in on three of his main heroic traits we can apply to our lives:
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 New International Version (NIV)
Whether we are doing a big thing or a small thing, being a superhero requires courage in action and in belief.
Courageous actions show we trust in outcomes beyond our control. We keep moving forward through uncertainty, knowing God works in every situation for our eventual good.
Courageous beliefs instinctively guide us to step out of our comfort zones, and serve others in ways we could never imagine. Amazing things can happen when we let go of worldly constraints and see where our hearts can take us.
Following Jesus means we bravely surrender our own plans, and dare to dream about his.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 (NIV)
This piece of Scripture tends to make people squirm. The word “deny” does not fit well into our culture of achievement, excess, and conformity.
It is much more comfortable to follow Jesus from afar. Jumping in the trenches with him brings inconvenience, judgement, and discomfort.
But, all superheroes readily give up their own interests and agendas for the common good, don’t they? Jesus never promised an easy path. In fact, he informed us that “in this world, you will have trouble” (John 16:33).
Following Jesus means we move selflessly, without hesitancy, to do God’s work and to show appreciation for God’s work being done.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34-35 (NIV)
Becoming a superhero or following Jesus like a disciple, means we wholeheartedly seek to live as he did by loving others.
Unlike other heroes, our mission instructions will never self-destruct. Jesus sends daily instructions by way of the Holy Spirit, which lives in all believers. If we pay attention, we will notice the Holy Spirit continually pointing out opportunities to love.
With practice, we get better at loving others and tuning out protests from our human nature. We adapt to hearing the Lord’s quiet praise instead of the world’s noisy recognition.
Following Jesus means we examine all of our actions and beliefs to see if they resonate with love.
Superheroes work better together, when their powers are combined.
Familiar superheroes almost always enlist a sidekick or join forces with other superheroes to take down a villain mastermind, right? In a similar way, Jesus formed a team of disciples to spread his teachings, instilled the Holy Spirit in his believers, and called them to spread a message of love.
We do not have to look very far to find superheroes ready to team up. They are out there – making sales calls, coaching baseball teams, sitting in hospital rooms, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and pretending to open automated doors.
Just like any combined force of characters, we feel more powerful together, and the good we do multiplies.
An army of mere mortals we will be, confidently placed on the front lines and backed by the ultimate power, the mighty hero, our awesome God. Surely, our grins escape us. And then…
The Lord will march forth like a mighty hero. Isaiah 42:13 (NLT)
Prayer for the Week
Thank you for placing others in my path who remind me of my mission to love as courageously and selflessly as Jesus did.
Help me find the courage to act when faced with the unknown. Guide me to bravely believe in the coming good.
Save a spot for me next to you in the trenches. Give me the strength to make sacrifices and readily accept hard assignments.
Teach me to quickly recognize opportunities to model your love and to praise others for the work they have done.
Encourage me to humbly join forces with the companions you send my way. Guard our backs as we work hard to bring glory to your name.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen
- This: Idleman, Kyle. Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011. Print. Available on Amazon right here.
- And this: