July 29, 2014

Putting On My Superhero Costume

It is Tuesday, July 29, 2014. I have four days to finish a major ethnography project. To say that I am "almost done" would be laughable. In fact, our TA sent out an email this week that read:

"By now you should be wrapping up your research and putting the finishing touches on everything, right?"

I thought to myself, "I am so dead right now. Lord, help me!" I need to have 25 pages written in a scholarly format, pre-publication, by midnight on Friday, August 1st. If I were writing a normal research paper, then I would think "piece of cake!" However, I am not writing a normal paper. By that I mean, I am not using scholarly literature to support a theory and answer/defend research questions. No, I am writing intensely personal stories, experiences of incredible hurt and shame and guilt, stories that were shared with me openly and honestly, within the boundaries of interviewer/interviewee confidence. The data, so to speak, is life story. It is what these dear people told me about their experience in a crisis situation at my church. They told me things I didn't know (as a participant observer). They told me how hurt they were, how crushed they were, and how abused they felt by the communication practices of leadership and staff. What I saw through this process was foundational to my understanding of Christian sacrifice and God-honoring behavior. I stand in awe of these people, and I stand with them as they process the hurtful experiences that came as a result of Christian leadership practices.

Last night, one of our Pastors (our ONE remaining Pastor to be specific) posted a great article about living the life of a Superhero to her blog. She writes about how superhero movies appeal to her, how she identifies with the hero, and how she likes it when the hero uses his or her ability to overcome evil with good. She goes on to clarify her comments when she writes,

"But there’s something more that I’m drawn to in these movies. It’s the power. The incredible strength, the belief in their ability to do what they set out to do, no matter what they face. The superhero never gives up but, instead, calls on the power within Him or the power given Him to fight and to eventually win."

Her best point, however, comes when she says that the "power" to be a superhero comes from God and not the world. She quotes John 14:12 and says,

"This verse tells me that I have the ability from God to be a superhero. I have been handed the power from Jesus to heal the sick, to strike the enemy with a single blow, to know the details of a complete stranger’s life, even to raise someone from the dead. That’s what Jesus did. And now He’s telling me that I can do more than that."

I read this article last night, and I thought to myself, "This is so true. These words are power and they confirm to me (us) that we have the power within us (by the Blood of Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit) to overcome whatever challenges or obstacles we face in this life." Romans 8:38-39 says it this way:

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I am a superhero today. I have the power within me to accomplish any task that He has set before me. He has called me to pursue doctoral study, and He has equipped me for every good work (Heb. 13:21, 2 Tim. 2:17). Therefore, I am able to do this work. I can produce this report, this scholarly article, this class required paper, because He has provided the ability within me to do it. I will do it. I will get it done.

So today, as I make the turn into the final stretch, and as I look at what I have finished (which is so much less than I had hoped to have done by this date), I am reminded of these words in 1 John 4:4:

But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.

Yes, the One who lives within me is far greater, far more able, far more capable than I am to complete this work. I have never felt so utterly hopeless, so completely without words (and that is saying something), and so desperately in need of His help, as I am right now. I am without power, without hope, without ability; yet, I cry out with the Prophet:

Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Don't be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

The Lord is with me. He is my God. I will not be afraid. I will rest in His completed work, His abilities, and in His will for my life. I will look up this morning, and I will remember that my power, the power that will see me through is not my own, but it is His. I give Him all the praise, all the honor, and all the glory this day. May His Name be praised always and forever more. Amen. Selah!

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