Into The Unknown
I remember writing in my blessing book a few years before meeting Ben that it had finally occurred to me that getting married would mean becoming part of a new family and leaving mine behind. I was probably going to have to change, because I noticed that's what happened when people got married: they changed. I was scared about it. For some reason, I'd always assumed my future husband and I would carry on exactly as my family did with no breaks in thought or action.
Back at that time in my life - late teens to early twenties - I also had an extremely harsh view of other people and tended to categorize them more as a series of identifying boxes than as living, breathing people. If you had suggested to 20-year-old-Me that I would marry a man who had been a Christian less than three years, had grown up in the public school system and graduated from college, was attending a Pentecostal church faithfully every Sunday and who got excited about reading non-canonical books like Jasher and Enoch, I would've told you in no uncertain language that you were talking to the wrong girl. If you threw in that I'd agree to marriage after spending plenty of time alone with him and without either father's in-depth involvement or prior consent (oops...), I would've been even more shocked.
Back then, I was going to have a strict courtship overseen by my father, I was not even going to hold hands with my betrothed, who would be a good homeschooled boy hopefully working with his father and ready to move into his own house that he'd been diligently saving for since he was fourteen, and we were both definitely going to be 25 or younger.
(These were not my parents' ideas, by the way - I picked them up by reading all kinds of stuff that seemed wise and prudent to me. I've since observed that my way of thinking at the time really didn't take people themselves into account.)
In spite of all my careful imaginings, I really only made one request of God when it came to the nature and person of my possible husband: I asked for him not to be what I dubbed "a Loopholer". I wanted a man who wanted what was good with his whole heart and wasn't looking for loopholes to get out of doing what God considered good.
But I did just sort of assume my Mr. No-Loopholer would fit the picture I'd made of him, homeschooled and all.
Meeting Ben scared me to death.
Not because Ben is a frightening individual (unless you've lost to him for the twenty-five-thousandth time at chess). Because I knew from our five hundred pages of emails he sure seemed a lot like the man I'd asked for but not the one I'd imagined. In many ways, he was nothing at all like what I'd imagined. And I knew if I married him, things were going to Change. Yes, that's with a capital C.
For the first couple months we went out, I think I had a knot in my stomach the whole time. I was afraid. I was very afraid. Afraid of making such a big decision and what could happen if I chose poorly. Afraid of how the details were going to work out. Afraid that Ben didn't make enough money to support a family. Afraid of how much it was going to hurt if we decided NOT to get married. Afraid of things Ben thought were important that were uncomfortable and strange to me. I had never pictured fear as such a big part of the deciding-to-get-married process.
One of the things I kept asking God over and over was for him to make his plans overwhelmingly obvious to me, to make marriage to Ben impossible if it wasn't a good idea. For most of my life, I would say that I have prayed and God answered through circumstances. But one day, I think he actually answered me in words. I was only half awake, but I was lying in bed looking out the window and thinking about the day and I said some small prayer about how I didn't know what to think when it came to all the things about Ben that weren't what I'd pictured. And a small voice in the back of my mind said, "I've given you exactly what you hoped for. Stop being so scared!"
It was then that I think I finally started seeing that Ben really was a pretty wonderful man without part of me hanging back and objecting. That even though his life was something I'd never imagined, it was something I was ready to be a part of. It was going to be different than what I'd grown up with, different from what anyone else I knew lived, but it was going to be good. Because Ben loved good. And he didn't look for ways to excuse himself from doing what was good.
Being married has changed me. But they've been good changes because they were all done for the sake of good. It's taken time for some things to feel normal and not uncomfortably strange, but there was one thing I forgot when I was worried about having to change: that it wasn't something I was going to do alone. It's not a matter of Ben being an inflexible standard I have to conform to. We are looking for what is good together and we are changing together. That makes the path out into the unknown a lot less scary than I thought it was going to be.
And that would've been a very encouraging thought for 20-year-old-Me.
My family is probably going to groan about this post. We've had a long tradition of enjoying superhero stories and movies. We like fantasy and science fiction and time traveling and other such stories. We cut our teeth on Lord of the Rings (the books, not the movies) and even stuck with the Smallville series (in spite of the wearisome number of "skip" scenes and episodes) for seven seasons until we finally gave up. We look forward to a great good-versus-evil flick.
That's actually why I was a little shaken by a documentary called The Replacement Gods.
Brief alert: the beginning of this documentary deals with the ancient legends of early cultures and as my sister says, "I just learned way more than I wanted to about other gods".
However, what the documentary points out is we already know these legends but just don't realize they've been redressed for our age.
There are a few things in the documentary I don't agree with and I'm pretty sure I don't see theologically eye-to-eye on every point with the filmmakers. But the documentary makes the point that Satan is called the Great Deceiver and he has a couple of goals, one of which is to destroy God's Creation and the other is to set himself up as God. In the process of reaching those goals, he has been very successful at using every generation's version of mass media to propagandize his point of view; and you can trace it down through all recorded history to our day.
Matthew records Jesus having a strange and pointed conversation with his disciples about his second coming and about the things that will happen to help those who love God to recognize it. One of the first things he tells them is this:
"For false christs [saviors] and false prophets [people who speak the words of God] will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand." (Matt 24:24-25)
God's Elect - those serious about following God and loving him - can be made to confuse bad for good. To buy into a false good and make real good appear wrong or strange or evil so that we turn away or even fight against it.
I'm not saying every good-versus-evil story is twisted so it's not really good or evil. But I am saying that we have to be really careful to know what good and evil are according to God so that we don't buy false versions and get fooled into following a false Messiah. God has a standard of good and evil and we need to know it by the Bible not to get sucked into a different definition.
Personally, I think this is the most frightening thing about life. My relationship with God isn't a fearful one. But this idea should be scary. There are people sincerely wanting to follow God who have and will buy into Satan's lies about good and evil. And they are not people who want to be bad.
There’s going to be a day when Jesus comes back to Earth and all the nations are going to fight against him.
19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth with their armies gathered to make war against him who was sitting on the horse and against his army. 20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. 21 And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh. - Revalation 19:19-21
A lot of us aren't going to recognize Jesus when he comes. A lot of decent people are going to fight against him (unless we really think all those armies are completely made up of orcs and goblins and other scary bad guys). If nearly all Mankind is involved on the wrong side of this battle, it's dumb to think our family will just avoid being on the wrong side. We are just as gullible as anyone else - maybe even more so.
20 Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!
Satan has always wanted Jesus’ place and position, both as King of the Earth and as God’s Son, the inheritor of God's power. He is also known as the Great Deceiver, meaning he is very good at taking a truth and twisting it just slightly to make it totally backwards. His goal is for us to think he is good and God is evil. And woe to anyone who trades sweet for bitter and bitter for sweet. When we do this, we lose the ability to understand where we're going and what we're doing.
So here's how superheroes fit into the mix.
All movies, art, stories, etc. are essentially propaganda dramatizing a point of view. Every movie or TV episode is telling you something. Superhero stories more than anything else in media are always about epic clashes between super-good and super-evil with the fate of the world usually hanging in the balance. Pretty spiritual stuff. And we are entertained, fascinated, edified and walk away feeling good about good winning.
But does real good truly win? Can drama teach us something that isn't true?
Our Messiah doesn't look much like the usual superheroes. He has unusual abilities, true, but he pointed out they were the abilities every man filled with God's Spirit should have. He was a teacher, not a warrior. He was characterized by authority in his words and humility in his circumstances. He did not wear a cape and have chiseled features (Isaiah says there was nothing about him that should have drawn us to him), but he was perfect according to God in his words and deeds. He willingly died, not exerting any super power to come off the cross. He is going to come back to cause the last war we call Armageddon rather than trying to prevent it. He is going to destroy the world. He did not have a nice romantic sub-plot to his life (though plenty of people have tried to invent one for him) and the Bride he laid his life down for is actually a Kingdom, a place referred to as the New Jerusalem, the City of God.
On the other hand, common threads going through superhero stories are of people with powers nobody else has who spend all their time trying to save the world through their own might and who all have flaws to keep them from being perfect so they can be "approachable". They are a capricious, attractive, angst-ridden bunch who manage to "come down off the cross" any time it looks like they might be crucified. They always get the girl, save the day, defeat the bad guy unequivocally and awe anyone who sees them in action. They are captivating and we have many dramas in books and movies detailing their exploits.
This dramatic storytelling is nothing new. It's very old, as old as humanity itself.
The tale of Gilgamesh is probably the oldest one we know of, a story being told right after the Flood about the flood and the survival of Humankind. It’s a drama because instead of the real facts about a righteous man instructed by God in how to survive (all the glory going to God), Gilgamesh was so wise and powerful that he figured out to build an ark and survive the Great Flood all by himself and did all kinds of fantastical deeds in the process. He was pretty much a god himself rather than a humble man being given instructions by a great and wise God. He was a Superhero, the first one recorded in history.
In ancient cultures, heroes were “gods”, fictional beings stronger than humans with unusual powers over things like weather, peoples’ minds and the laws of physics, while still being flawed and prone to error and downright crazy capriciousness and cruelty. They have illicit romances, family feuds, splendid uniforms and fan conferences (also known as temples, priests, and worshippers bringing sacrifices). They have always had a great draw. People all through the ages have been thrilled and entertained by these dramas. The pantheon of gods was invented for the worship, solace, entertainment, and moral direction of the people inventing them.
And we are told in Scripture that these false gods were backed by evil spirits and were dangerous because they turned people's hearts away from God and toward evil. These gods and their ways taught people that bad was good. They blinded their followers to real good. This was a Satanic thing, these false god claims and cults. It was all to make people worship him instead of the true God.
It’s always been kind of a mystery to me why the Jewish people as a whole did not recognize their Messiah when he came. One of the several things that seems to have happened - judging by how they reacted to the idea of Jesus the Teacher as Messiah - was they liked the "superhero" stories of their day and expected their Messiah was going to be the superhero to beat all superheroes. He was going to march in with supernatural power and destroy all the enemies of the Jews just like Superman. Only better. If Zeus was the king of the gods to the people around them, their Messiah was going to be even more splendid. Take that, all you Gentile oppressors!
Instead, Messiah was a humble working man with a normal family who did some interesting miracles but certainly didn't out-Zeus Zeus. What a disappointment to people conditioned to expect a hero who looked like Hercules.
Today we have become more sophisticated (we think) than to offer animal or children or grain sacrifices to “gods”. We know those old gods aren’t real and we aren’t going to bother butchering some kind of animal and burning it up to make a god happy so we get rain for our vegetables.
(It could be argued we look at Science that way, but that’s a different discussion.)
So the old deception making Satan the good guy had to take a new form for our present generation in Western culture.
It isn't hard to trace where the old gods went. They and their legends became more sophisticated and lived on.
It's not even a secret. The superheroes of today in our Western storytelling struggle with people wanting to call them “gods” and they have to come up with a different explanation for the powers they have. “I’m not a god, just an alien from another planet who has all these powers Humans don’t!” or “I just got bit with a radioactive spider and I can do all these powerful things now” or “I’m just evolving and that’s natural that Humans would evolve into something more intelligent and powerful than we used to be.”
This is so we don't get uncomfortable with the idea of looking up to false gods. It's perfectly okay to "idolize" (and that's a commonly used word) an alien from another planet with wonderful powers since he's not called a god and we all know it's a story, so it's just fun.
But in story after story, we're being taught to accept the leading of powerful beings who we sense don't have a complete grasp of morality but are so awesome that we have to support them because ultimately they're going to save the world. And we don't want our familiar world to be destroyed, right?
Through today's superhero stories - re-tellings of the stories of the gods of ancient cultures - we are learning to be familiar with god-like powerful people fighting for the future of Humankind against an army of also awesomely powerful beings who want to take us over and destroy the Earth and set up a new Kingdom in place of the kingdoms of men. It's being taught that it’s everyone’s duty and highest calling to change and save the world. That's really the underlying theme to the superhero mythos: that we ordinary humans must take on special powers to fight against any force that would overtake our world and remake it.
The problem is...that's exactly what Jesus will do when he comes back. And if that sounds unpleasant or wrong, the storytelling of warped good and evil is doing it's work.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. -Ephesians 6:10-13
There is a strong desire in the comic-book-writing community to bring back the old religions, drawing their new mythology from all the old mythology that goes back as far back as written history can find it. The pantheon of gods is the treasure trove for the story lines of comic book characters. We are being taught to see the characteristics of those ancient gods as admirable and heroic because they are presented in a way that is entertaining and really grabs our attention. Even if we continue to worship our God, it's possible for us to get flaws in our recognition of him just like the Jewish people expect their Messiah to have the characteristics of the ancient mythological heroes to this day. They missed him when he was standing in front of him, so why do we think we wouldn't miss him standing in front of us when he comes back? We are not more holy or wiser than they.
And that is why it might be wise to be very careful of the New Mythology being built today, because it can make us start having a hard time knowing the difference between darkness and light.
If we want to avoid being taken in by a counterfeit Messiah, we really need to learn to recognize the characteristics of the real Messiah and not be fooled by anything else. To not make heroes of people who carry Satan's characteristics and devils of those who carry the Messiah's.
Wife of Benjamin and mother to two wonderful little girls who are getting bigger every day. Enjoys writing down thoughts and discussions we are having within the family and sharing them with whoever is interested in reading.
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