As a kid, I always had a very active imagination. I could entertain myself for hours, with nothing more than my own thoughts. Sometimes creating alternate realities where the fate of the world would ultimately depend on my hand-to-hand martial arts combat skills. Or I’d be heading up some rock band that I single-handedly propelled to stardom (but I never let the fame get to my head, because I’m humble like that). The common thread running through all of these daydreams, apart from always winning the heart of whichever girl I liked at the moment, was the unchanging conclusion that everyone realized that I was a hero. I was the star. I was the one that everyone loved, respected and secretly wanted to be like.
I’m sure I’m not the only one with a vivid imagination and while I’ve heard that girls don’t have quite as much fighting in their dreams, I’m sure that all of us can relate to the hero complex, in one way or another. We have all desired, and still do desire, to see ourselves in center of a something important or in some highly respected position. We may like to think, “I don’t do that, I’m a Christian and Jesus is the only hero in my story.” Well, that being true, we have all found ways to work the reality of God into our own hero fantasies.
Back to my childhood… When I was young, my view of God was pretty similar to my understanding of Aladdin’s Genie. Not that I thought God was like Robin Williams, doing celebrity impressions and singing controversial song lyrics. But, that he was a rather mystical wish-giver, on call to do whatever I needed Him to do. I would ask him to get rid of the scary monsters in my room, keep me from having nightmares, get my parents to buy me the new Optimus Prime action figure, and get my brother to stop beating me up. You know, important stuff like that. They would either happen and I would think God was really cool or they wouldn’t and I would think that maybe my prayer was defective or something. And occasionally I would try to test this power by asking Him to bring one of my toys to life or something like that, which normally wound up in short-lived disappointment (although the alternative would be pretty freakin’ scary). Overall, I thought He worked for me. He was a tool to be used to accomplish my dreams.
As I grew up, I began to realize that I was not, in fact, the center of God’s universe and that he was the one in control. I started to see our relationship less as Aladdin and his Genie, and more as Batman and Robin. God was “in the driver’s seat” and I was like a sidekick who helped him at strategic moments as He did all kinds of amazing things. This seemed really great and outwardly very humble as well. But the truth is, it was still dripping with the same hero-complex that had saturated my childhood dreams, just less obvious. I still wanted to be that William Wallace figure that charged fearlessly into battle and won the day. The difference being that at the end of the battle, when everyone began to shout my praises, I would then point to the sky and acknowledge that the victory was not mine but it was, to their surprise, the Lord’s. Therefore, securing my reputation as being quite humble as well as being quite powerful and heroic. Well, at least that’s a decent illustration of the way I thought about my own dreams. Even as a student planning on going into ministry I often thought this way. If you just replaced the sword with a cool church, rockin’ music, sweet graphics and an epic gift for expositing the scriptures, that would be pretty close to my dreams- Pastor William Wallace, leading a dynamic revolution in the church…with God, of course.
I’m now deconstructing that view of God, the idea that he is the Batman to my Robin. I realize now that I am not Robin in this story at all. I’m not even the Commissioner. I doubt I’m even Sgt. O’hara (For those who are getting lost in the Batman illustration – he was the rather goofy police officer that never really seemed to know what’s going on, but always got to put the bad guys in the jail cell and shake Batman’s hand at the end of the episode). That whole thing was just the remnants of my childhood hero-complex. I had kept it all along. Only, I had found a way to place God into it, even making him the center of it, so that it seemed honorable to pursue my own fame and glory. It was a much more socially acceptable way to make myself an idol, to be worshipped by myself and others.
It seems that no matter how much I learn about grace. I still want to be judged by my works, at least the good ones. I still want to know, and others to know as well, that I’m strong and capable of great things. But the real truth is, the same grace that saved me (apart from any works or merit of my own) is the same grace that enables me to do anything of worth for the Kingdom. It’s all Him and I’m simply blessed to come along for the ride. Grace constantly kicks my own prideful aspirations to the curb and reminds me that even the best life that I could possibly live and the greatest things that I could ever accomplish for the kingdom don’t even compare to the righteous life that has already been lived on my behalf by Jesus Christ. And that all that is required of me is to humble myself enough to accept that and trust.
In other words it’s about time for Robin to die.