Tacy Layne | Writer/Editor "It's Batman!"
The excited little boy's voice echoes the joy and relief the citizens of Gotham feel as Batman soars above the city in the Bat Mobile. Attached by a chain to the famous aircraft, the Neutron Bomb swings like a pendulum through the air. Every face turns towards the sky.
The camera catches the look of anticipation on each spectator's face. The effortless beauty of the sunset contrasts the painful possibilities still hanging in the balance. Then, we see his face.
Batman. Fierce. Brave. Determined to save the city.
As the explosive detonates below the water's surface with not a second to spare, the city erupts in exclamations, knowing the hero—Batman—has saved the day.
Whether it's 2012's The Dark Knight Rises or 1920's The Mark of Zorro, we love the hero . . . and more than that, we love the idea of being the hero. What if you caught Mary Jane as she was free-falling through the sky or you saved an entire village from being terrorized merely with your armor?
THE HERO COMPLEX
O, to be the hero—the hero in the eyes of our parents, our spouse, our children, our family, our town, our state, our country. Certainly, we want to "help" people, right? But, don't we also want to know what it feels like to stand in the spotlight as people celebrate the fact that we just saved the day? I know I've craved that feeling. Haven't you?
Here's the problem. When we make any single act of kindness about us rather than the recipient, our eyes cannot see past the mountain of pride in front of our faces. What happens when we carry this hunger for fame and recognition into ministry with us?
The results can be devastating.
Developing countries do not need another hero. They've had their fair share and in many cases the "hero" made the crisis or problem worse.
This story—of redeeming the creation for the creator, of releasing the oppressed and the oppressor, of bringing beauty out of the ashes—already has a hero. He didn't need us at the resurrection and he doesn't need us now, but he invites us to be part of this logic-defying, grace-covered story that's sent the cosmos reeling.
Steven Corbett's When Helping Hurts calls out the church for our historically egocentric approach to missions and suggests a better way—a way that engages our brothers and sisters in Christ in real community, recognizing their strengths and weaknesses, our strengths and weaknesses, and the celebration of the grace covering it all.
When God calls us to serve someone, he isn't asking us to be the hero of that person's story. He's reminding us that he's already the hero, and he's inviting us to be engaged in the process. If we'll allow it, this realization can be freeing.
Your brothers and sisters could use your gifts, your talents, your wisdom, and your generosity in all its forms because we are made for community and God can do a magnificent work through us. But it's time for us to abandon the desire to be the hero.
PEOPLE OVER PROCESS
This is about more than the prideful practice of trying to take the glory which rightfully belongs to God, though. When we decide that we're going to be the hero of the story, we make those we are serving part of a means to an end, missing out on the gift of friendship with them, wisdom from them, and community shared alongside them.
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.39 She had a sister called Mary,who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42
Perhaps at one point Martha was excited about the arrival of Jesus, but she got lost in her to-do list. In the midst of her meltdown, she talked (rudely in my humble opinion) to her honored guest, threw her sister under the bus, and made herself a negative example for people like us to talk about until the end of time. She missed the people because she was lost in the process. She wanted the house to be perfect, and in her own way, she wanted to be the hero of this day. Not only did she get wrapped up in the process and lose sight of what was truly important, but she tried to take Jesus down with her when she pleaded, "Tell her to help me!"
We must not get so caught up in engaging the poor, disadvantaged, or struggling people around us in our processes that we forget the people. I've been there with my to-do list, checking off projects rather than emotionally and mentally checking in with people. It's easier that way, isn't it? It's far less messy to do something for someone in a distant, project-oriented type of way than it is in an honest, face-to-face, authentic human kind of way.
Relationships are messy. Christianity is messy. Missions? Totally messy. At some point though, we have to learn to live in the mess rather than trying to clean it up all the time.
Don't get in a tizzy, Martha. We don't need an action shot, Batman. Instead, let's love the people we serve with a selfless, unconditional love. God's the hero of this one.