By Ron Ross (January 25, 2013)
Faster than a speeding bullet, stronger than a locomotive! With these words Superman arrived. It was in the 1930’s when it all started. Heroically the caped crusader battled evil and fought for ‘truth, justice and the American Way.’ Superman has moved through the generations with timely tweaks to keep him topical. With the 2013 movie Man of Steel, the legend goes on. Superman starts a new era.
The storyline came from Jewish teenagers Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Sons of immigrants to the USA, they linked Superman to the biblical hero Moses, who emerged from the temple of Pharaoh to find his place among his own people. A stranger in a strange land, Superman like Moses, was a baby refugee who grew to be the peoples’ champion. He came from the planet Krypton where his name was Kal El, Hebrew for ‘Voice of God.’
When not being the superhero, he was mild-mannered Clark Kent, the identity that camouflaged his true identity. In the movie Man of Steel, Russell Crowe plays Jor El, the biological father of Superman. Appropriately, Joe El means ‘father.’
So where are we going with this illustration? It is the double identity that caught my imagination. In the Superman story Clark Kent was the cover-up. He presented as a mild mannered, even fearful guy and his behavior was a stark contrast to the reality.
We live in the opposite scenario. On the outside we so easily display behavior cover-ups that conceal who we are in Christ. Often we don’t even realize we have developed a reaction to incidents or hurts from the past. In fact those things may be the kryptonite that seeks to bring us to our knees.
Emotions will be affected by incidents in a broken or violent home. Techniques of self preservation will emerge from circumstances of poverty, health, academic success or failure or sibling rivalry. And this is in no way, a complete list. Events cause compromise and we are then tossed around like a ship without an anchor.
I worked with a teenager in juvenile prison. He was labeled a delinquent. But as we unraveled his story, we learned he had arrived home one day to find his father in bed with his mother’s best friend. The boy went berserk. He damaged public property with a baseball bat, and was arrested and locked up. He became a repeat offender and called an habitual criminal. His reaction was clearly linked to that traumatic experience. I still question how the world can accept adultery but imprison a boy for his reaction to the failure of his father.
Even now you may be thinking about your dad and those moments in your life that left a deep scar. Do the aftershocks impact your life, even now? Good news is a new way is offered. As believers, our anchor is Jesus Christ. We will remain unstable until we embrace all He has for us.
Jesus invites us to ‘buy’ from Him ‘gold refined by fire.’ He told us to ‘become rich’ wearing ‘white garments.’ (Rev 3:16) This is all about finding our identity in Him. Accept Him totally and refuse the deception that seeks to bring you down. Rich means we will have wealth unlimited. Wearing white garments speaks of the righteousness and purity we find in Him.
Faces in the Street
You are not alone in these circumstances. My favorite Australian poet Henry Lawson saw the sadness and sorrow in his memorable poem ‘Faces in the Street.”
“And cause I have to sorrow, in a land so young and fair, to see upon those faces stamped the marks of Want and Care;
I look for in vain for traces of the fresh and fair and sweet, In sallow, sunken faces that are drifting through the street –
Drifting on, drifting on, To the scrape of restless feet; I can sorrow for the owners of the faces of the street
The words are simple but profound. The warning is that you not allow circumstances to take from you ‘all you might have been.’ Right now, we are learning you have a future and a hope and it’s all good.
C, S, Lewis wrote: “you are a bundle of self-centred fears, hopes, greeds, jealousies, and self-conceit, all doomed to death.” He suggests we should all ‘dress up as Christ’, a kind of ‘let’s pretend’, until it becomes part of us. (Mere Christianity page 158-159, C. S. Lewis, William Collins and Sons, Glasgow)
His thinking is that as we are thinking about what Christ would do in given situations, or how Christ would react, we are thinking about Him and His divine nature.
“Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you already had it. That is why children’s games are so important. They are always pretending to be gown ups – playing soldiers, playing shop. But all the time, they are hardening their muscles and sharpening their wits, so that the prentence of being grown up helps them grow up in earnest,: wrote Lewis. (Mere Christianity, page 158)
The Superman theme illustrates, the hidden power we have as Christians. We often choose to live in a frame that conceals our true kingdom identity. We need guidance to remove the disguises we have acquired.
When the lame man was healed, he walked ! The Bible says he went ‘walking and leaping and praising God.’ (Acts 3: 8) I picture a new breed of believers declaring in the Lord’s strength “Up, up and away!’ as the hindrances of this world are overcome.
When I was pastoring in Queensland, a big, burly, no-beating-around-the-bush Ian ‘Watto’ Watson asked if we could meet for coffee. When we were settled he looked at me and asked, “How’s your sex life?’ He was serious. He wanted to help me by asking real questions. Ian knows the value of accountability and the helpful role friends can play. “I’ve never seen a bloke go backwards with encouragement,” he says. He is the founder of Shed Happens and encourages men to share from the heart.
In his book Watto writes: “Remember, what you have chained up for 20, 30, 40 years might need to be gently peeled and slowly peeled away, layer by layer, to reach the champion in you.” (Every Bloke’s a Champion – Even You, Ian ‘Watto’ Watson, Watto Books, ianwatto.com)
You can begin that process now. Peel away.
In one of the most tragic cover up stories, cyclist Lance Armstrong (pictured) came clean about his use of performance enhancing drugs. He won seven Tour de France titles but in each race he cheated. Throughout the interview with Oprah Winfrey, Armstrong remained very matter of fact and in control until the conversation turned to his 13 year old son, Luke, who had been steadfastly defending his dad against all accusations. Armstrong knew it was time to confess. He was deceiving his son. He became emotional as he spoke about Luke and the cover up. Until then, observers said Armstrong had not been contrite but when it came to deceiving his own children he faced the truth. We all have genuine places where the love of the Lord seeks to break through. I pray Lance Armstrong and his family will find that truth, even in the saddest of hard times.
The Armstrong saga provides us the opportunity for a serious question. Do we also cover up and hide the truth from family and friends? Do they know me for who I really am? The Armstrong case is extreme but there is no doubt most of us from time to time have built a role we play. It may come through fear or over-confidence. This is why God looks at the heart and not at the things we do. He ascertains how spiritually healthy we are by knowing the heart. In Christ, we find our true identity.
I fought my own battles to try and be what others expected of me. It was when I stopped and asked the Lord, ‘who am I’ the truth emerged in my life. It is easy for us to fit into a man-made mold and it causes us to ‘come short of the glory of God.’ (Rom. 3:23)
Consider Gideon. This man was overwhelmed. He was intimidated, oppressed and looking at certain defeat. Gideon went into the winepress apparently to make flour by beating the wheat. I wonder if he chose the winepress just to hide from his enemies? The angel of the Lord came along and said: “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior!” What a choice of words? Mighty warrior? The Lord must see something in Gideon not immediately on display. Most of us would have spoken just as Gideon did: “O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles, which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” (Judges 6:13) Woe is me, he cried.
But the Lord had a different slant: “Go in this strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand.” (Judges 6:14) Gideon replied: ““O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house!” Gideon trots out his Clark Kent. My family is the least and I am the youngest. How can you expect me to do this?
“I will be with you,” the Lord said. Wow! There is the gold mine, the treasure chest. When we step out as children of God, He is with us. He is the strength we need to leap tall buildings in a single bound.