Releasing the Superhero within Us

boy child clouds kid

Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

I am a bit of a superhero nerd.  Whether it’s Batman, Superman, Iron Man, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man, Justice League, or The Avengers, I am hooked.  I couldn’t even tell you which one is my favorite because each one is fascinating to me.  What attracts me to this genre of art and pop-culture is not so much the display of their strength, their quests to conquer evil, their teamwork, or even the outstanding special effects we see in their movies.  What attracts me to superheroes is the spiritual significance that I see in each of their stories.

Many of the superheroes we are familiar with came from difficult circumstances.  Many are orphans.  Some have experienced horrific injuries or have painful memories of their past.  Their story of origin almost always has a tragic element to it.  But regardless of their circumstances they have discovered a special power, strength or ability and they have decided to use this gift to help, serve and save others.  Often the tragedy that they experience is what propels them into life as a superhero.  What could have destroyed them has instead strengthened them in their quest to help others.

Another unique trait about superheroes is that many of them live a dual life.  In their day-to-day lives they may be known as Clark Kent, Diana Prince, Peter Parker, or Bruce Wayne.  But when they are called into action they become Superman, Wonder Woman, Spider-man, and Batman.  Their “secret identities” are the persona they exhibit when they are not fighting crime, catching villains, or leaping over buildings in a single bound.  It’s who they pretend to be when they’re not being the superheroes they really are.

I believe that we as believers in Christ are all spiritual superheroes.  We have been given the Holy Spirit of God, the third Person of the Trinity to exist inside of us.  That same Spirit has given us at least one spiritual gift that has been especially selected just for us to possess.  God’s desire is to use that gift, empowered by His Holy Spirit to impact the world in which He has placed us.

Sadly, I believe too many of us are living only within our “secret identities.”  We are leading mild-mannered lives going about our daily business sometimes never realizing the special gift within us and the purpose and mission God wants to complete through us.  We spend our days at “The Daily Planet,” getting caught up in the news stories of the world, when in the meantime there are people in need all around us.  We pass by every phone booth (when those existed) and instead of allowing God to transform us and use the power He has placed within us, we continue our daily grind and one day looks very much like every other.  We are not sharing with the world who we really are.  We have either never recognized who God created us to be or we’ve lived so long in our secret identity that we’ve forgotten our true identity as believers in Christ!

Or perhaps, instead of overcoming the tragedies of our past we are haunted by them.  Our story of origin plagues us, making us believe that God could never use us or want to use us in His plan to touch the world.  The pain we have experienced or are still experiencing now distracts us to the point that we feel purposeless and useless.  We believe we have nothing to give.  We forget that we are special, uniquely created with a purpose and mission to fulfill.

If either of these scenarios describes you I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth!  We each have a gift, a calling, a purpose, and the power by which we are to use that gift to love and serve others on God’s behalf.  We are all spiritual SUPERHEROES as believers in Jesus!  We simply have to recognize our true identities and yield to them.  God will do the rest.

I was recently reading the book of Numbers in the Bible.  Although it is not the most compelling book of God’s Word there are some beautiful nuggets within it.  I stumbled across one that I believe speaks to this very notion of spiritual superhero-dom.  I was reading the story where the Israelites are complaining and rebelling against Moses and Aaron because they have no water to drink.  God says to Moses, “You and Aaron must take the staff an assemble the entire community.  As the people watch, speak to the rock over there, and it will pour out its water.  You will provide enough water from the rock to satisfy the whole community and their livestock.  …Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with the staff, and water gushed out.  So the entire community and their livestock drank their fill.”  (Numbers 20:8, 11)

Now you may be asking what does water coming out of a rock have to do with Christians being spiritual superheroes.  Well, it comes down to just one little word in that passage.  It’s the word “its.”  In verse 8 God says to Moses, the rock will pour out “its” water.  I double checked the original Hebrew and indeed the original text also reads “its” water.  The rock already possessed the water the Israelites needed.  God placed that water inside that rock so that it would be delivered to His nation Israel at precisely that time and place when they needed it most.  He knew their needs long before they did and He made provision for them.  He made provision by placing water within a rock, that rock!

The same is true for each of us.  God has placed inside each of us a gift, a gift that He wants to use to bless and fulfill others.  The gift isn’t for us.  It’s for others.  It is within us and God wants to unleash it in His timing and for His great purpose.  He wants that gift to just pour out of us, refreshing and renewing others through its expression.  He wants to include us in His mission of loving, serving and saving the world.

The downside of this story is that Moses chose to strike the rock twice with his staff (v. 11).  God told Moses to simply speak to the rock and the water would pour out its water.  The result of Moses’ action was the same, the water came gushing out.  But Moses had disobeyed God’s command and he did so in front of the entire community.  The price of Moses’ disobedience was costly.  When their journey in the wilderness finally ended and they were about to claim the land God had promised them for generations, Moses was not allowed to enter.   Moses took the miracle that God wanted to perform and added his own “power” to it.  In doing so, he made it about him.

This is a great reminder for all of us.  We may want some spectacular unleashing of the gift God has given us.  But we don’t get to choose the gift or how God uses it.  We simply need to recognize and yield to His power.  The moment we try to take that gift into our own hands and wield it in the world as if it is our own, we forget the Source of that gift and we make it about us.  That’s what differentiates us as Christians who are spiritual superheroes and the superheroes of our pop-culture.  Our gifts and how they impact the world are about God, not about us.  It’s never about us.  It’s about the One within us.  It is about bringing glory to our God and Creator.

My prayer for you dear reader is three-fold.  First, I pray that you recognize that you are a valuable, priceless, indispensable spiritual superhero.  God made you and created you with gifts, talents, and abilities that are unique only to you.  He has placed within you His Holy Spirit not only to guide you, comfort you, and teach you, but to UNLEASH the spiritual gift He has given you to share with the world.  Second, I pray that you know that God wants to use your story of origin to propel you forward in your mission to serve Him.  He does not want you bound by it.  He knows your story and will use every part of your life experience to touch the lives of others.  Third, I pray that you will yield to Him.   He has a mission for you, a purpose that only you can fulfill for Him.  He wants to pour out what He placed within you so that His love can be shared and that love will ultimately save those who are lost and in need of Him.  You are a superhero!  Give up your secret identity and live as the spiritual superhero God has created you to be.

Lord, thank you for the gift of Your Holy Spirit living inside each one of your children.  Thank you for His power and for Your mission to love the whole world.  Thank you for wanting use us to carry out your mission.  May Your church around the world hear and heed Your calling to love and serve that You may be glorified!  We love you and we thank you for your Son, Jesus.  In His name, amen.

You Want Me to Show You My What?

hemofgarmentWhat is the one thing you are most ashamed of, most embarrassed about? We’ve all got something. For many of us there are probably several things. They are things we may not like about ourselves or things from our past that we want to be free from. We may be the only one who knows about them. If only someone would just heal that part of us or set us free from whatever it is that continues to haunt us.

Now imagine that Jesus is coming to visit your church. You’ve heard He can heal the sick, free the demon-possessed and even raise the dead! Certainly, He could do the same for you. So, you, along with hundreds of others, go to see Him and you hope that maybe, just maybe, your path will cross His. You also hope deep down, that maybe that will be enough – just crossing His path might be enough to bring about the healing you seek. You stand elbow to elbow with hundreds of others at the foyer of your church to welcome Him. You’ve heard He’ll be arriving soon. You’re hoping that whatever you are seeking healing from is not visible to others.  At the same time, your heart longs to at last be free from it.  The energy in the crowd begins to shift as word travels that He has arrived. You check your appearance, straighten your clothes, and take a deep breath. Your nerves tingle as you wonder if He’ll notice you and what you will do if He does.

Then the moment arrives. You see His smiling face as He makes His way into the crowd. You soak up His presence but secretly wonder if the healing within you has already occurred. Is it gone? Am I free? Will I know when it happens?   You hope He sees you as He passes through.  Then suddenly He stops right in front of you.  Your nerves surge through you as they never have before.  The crowd urges Him on towards the sanctuary but He is not willing to move forward.  You can’t take your eyes off of Him.  He turns and faces your direction.  More nerves.  The smile on your face takes a dramatic fall as His eyes catch yours.  The crowd continues to urge Him on but He has focused in on you. Your heart is pounding out of your chest but you’re not sure you’re even breathing.  You try to look away from Him but can’t.  The people around you begin moving away until there is no one between you.  You and He are standing face to face. He smiles and calls you by name.  You try to smile back as your eyes fill with tears.  The crowd is now silent and all eyes are on you. Then He says, “Show me.” The pain, shame, and hurt come surging to the surface.  You know from His question that the one thing you have been hiding from the world for as long as you can remember is what He is asking to see.

I recently re-read a few of the healing stories we find in the Gospels. There is the man with the withered hand in Mark 3:1-6; the woman with bleeding issues from Mark 5:25-24; and the man who was an invalid for 38 years sitting at the pool of Bethesda in John 5:2-9.  What I saw in these stories that I had never seen before was the fact that the one thing that these three people probably spent their lives hiding from others or carrying as their greatest shame was exactly what Jesus asked to see. To the man with the withered hand He said, “Stretch out your hand.” To the woman with the bleeding issues who touched His robe in secret He said, “Who touched me?”  And to the man who had been paralyzed for 38 years He said, “Get up and walk.” In all three of those moments, Jesus was asking each of them to trust Him with their greatest vulnerability. And, when they did, He restored them. He healed them.

Jesus asks the same of you and me. We can say that we trust Him. We can even believe that we do. But have you truly given over to Him that one thing that you don’t want anyone to know about? If He said to you, “Show me,” would you?  Just knowing that Jesus knows about our issues is not the same thing as showing them to Him.  He wants that intimacy with us, where we feel safe and secure in Him enough to share our deepest hurts.  And He assures us through His Word that His desire to see our deepest need is not to condemn us or embarrass us. It is in order to heal us, to connect with us at our most vulnerable place.

St. Paul brought to the Lord three times his “thorn in the flesh” and specifically asked for God to remove it from him. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) In each case, God’s answer was not to remove it, not to heal Paul of it. But what did the Lord say? “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (v. 9) Paul didn’t receive healing, but He received God’s grace and a greater dependence upon God’s power. Like the three other examples, Paul had that intimate, personal moment with the Lord over his greatest weakness.

Being vulnerable with our Lord isn’t about what we get out of it. It is about Who we get out of it. I am not suggesting there is a magic formula for healing. If you just show God your most vulnerable issue, He’ll set you free – guaranteed! That’s not it. God calls all of us to an intimate and personal relationship with Him. He does heal. There are countless examples not only in the Bible but in our world today. But beyond healing, God seeks to transform His children. I propose that what Paul received was far greater than a physical healing.  He was forever changed to be more deeply connected to and dependent upon God.  He wants that for us. He is always moving us closer and closer to Him.

Will you trust Him with your deepest vulnerability?   He may grant you a miraculous healing or freedom from it.  If not healing, He will bring you to a new level of intimacy you never thought possible with the God of the universe.

Thank you, Lord, for your depth and desire to grow more intimately with us. Thank you for the examples of faith you preserved for us in your Word. Each one of those men and women were willing to risk showing You what brought them pain, shame, and disgrace. Help each of us to have the faith to trust You with our greatest weaknesses that we may grow closer to You. Thank you for loving us more deeply than we can even imagine and for always wanting to transform us into being more like Your Son. In His precious name, amen.

Why wait?

Lately I find myself looking at a particular real estate website several times a day. It’s become almost an obsession with me…but with good reason. I sold my home several months ago with the intention of moving into a new one. I needed to sell before I could start looking so that I’d be cash-ready when the right one came along. And certainly the right one would come along soon…or so I thought. The sale of my home went off without a hitch. The buyer even allowed me to rent back from her for a time. But now that time has come and gone and still no new home for me. So…for the last three weeks, my parents have graciously shared their home with me and my cat. (God bless them!)

There are plenty of homes out there, more and more each day. But there are parameters I’m bound by. Certainly price is one of them. I’ve gone to my loan officer on a few occasions already asking him to raise the amount I am approved for. So far he has, but I know there is a limit. And I also know he is not the one who has to pay that mortgage every month. 🙂 There are geographical boundaries I need to consider for reasons that have to do with earthquakes and the kind of job I do. There is a certain amount of space I need and a certain type of home I’m looking for. And yet, day after day, as more and more homes pass me by I think to myself…why am I waiting? It’s not going to be perfect, just find one and let’s go already!

But, truthfully, as strong as that desire might be in me, it’s not an option. It’s not an option because this whole move has been something that God has been directing in my life for more than three years. He’s calling the shots on this. He’s setting the parameters. And He is going to provide me the right house at precisely the right time.

Now some of you may not have experienced His direction so strongly in your own life. I get that. This has been a rather unusual experience for me as well. Some of you may just think I’m nuts. I get that too. 🙂 But until you experience it for yourself, I just ask you to acknowledge that it might, just might, be possible for God to care about the intricate details of our lives including the home we live in.

He has shown me dozens of sign posts along the way the have affirmed and confirmed for me that His desire for me is to move. He has also given me the geographical boundaries of where He wants me to live. He’s told me how the home is to be used and even given me a picture of what it is to look like. So why should I wait? Because I am not about to take this into my own hands at this point! For three years He has directed my steps. For three years He has put this vision in front of me. For three years He has taken me step by step in a journey He has designed just for for me. Why wait? Because to do anything else WOULD be crazy!

I’ll be honest, I wish the journey was over. I wish I was in a new home and all settled in. I long for that day. I long every day to see the home, in real life, that He has put in my mind’s eye. But so far it’s not there. So, I wait.

The Bible says, “Now faith is the confidence in what we hope for and the assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) If I don’t have confidence (which some days, I admit, I don’t) or if I would have seen this house in the flesh before ever selling my own home where would my faith be? I’ll answer that question with a question… What faith? It doesn’t take faith to believe in something you can see. It doesn’t take faith to have confidence in a plan that’s been laid out in perfect detail ahead of time. I’ve come to learn and I’m still learning that this whole journey has very little to do with a house. It has everything to do with building my faith.

If you’ve been told to wait, I want to encourage you. If you know that that direction is from The Lord, if He has given you signpost after signpost confirming His plan along the way…then WAIT. Don’t take His privilege, His joyful glee to bless you in a miraculous way away from Him now. WAIT! He is faithful. He is going to come through for you. You and I can commiserate for now in the midst of our impatience, but let’s stand firm together and wait on Him. His grace is sufficient, my friend. And the story we’ll get to tell on the other side of waiting will be amazing! And I can’t wait to tell it! 🙂 (pun intended)

Be encouraged…wait.