This is the second post in a 4 part series (part 1 here) designed to help geeks, gamers, and nerds to leverage the way God designed them, in order to get the Big Wins in life, and partner with God in saving the world. Last time, we tackled why being a geek is a very good thing in God’s eyes, and a little bit about how to leverage our design for His Glory. Today we’re going to talk about a powerful way to do just that – with our whole life.
Let’s try something fun and see what happens.
The next time you go out and find yourself among a big group of people, keep count of the number of people you see rocking some piece of superhero or video game paraphernalia.
Even in a small group, I had to count on two hands.
Captain America T shirts, Wonder Woman phone cases, Batman shoes… we literally wear our love for heroes on our sleeves. It’s so easy for us to think this is just part of the American Marketing machine – now that geeks have the power and the cultural voice, the things they like are in vogue, right?
But it’s not just an American thing. Love of heroes is a human thing – and it always has been.
It’s something that ties us all together: the desire to live an excellent life, and the admiration of those who do, even in stories. Every culture in the world — now and throughout its history — has held up a love of the nobler parts of our nature, and a desire to see them acted out.
Joseph Campbell took notice. And he dedicated his storied academic life to looking for the patterns and commonalities. All of his years of painstaking research are distilled in his masterpiece, The Hero With A Thousand Faces.
It’s a book about exploring the collective cross-section of all of the world’s stories about heroism, adventure, and derring-do. It explores the way we are wired to think about excellence.
And it’s an unbelievably potent underlying framework for a legendary life.
Let’s pause for a moment: I know that Campbell is a hotly disputed figure in Christian circles. Though I don’t agree with much of what the man believed, I think that he discerned very important things about human nature through observing man in his fallen condition across millennia and looking for commonalities. He has compiled a catalog of things that define heroism as humans see it, innately. And that is valuable for study and easy to redeem.
I’ve been using a simplified version of Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey” framework (Vogler’s “Writer’s Journey”) for years. The moment you see it, you’ll recognize it in all of your favorite childhood heroes, in the real lives of Biblical figures, and in modern myths like The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen and The Lord of the Rings’ Frodo Baggins.
Without further ado:
1) The Ordinary World – This is where it all begins. The Hero’s starting point. It’s comfortable, but not not known for being challenging or interesting. This is Frodo carousing in his pub in the Shire, Link sleeping in the Kokiri Forest, and Rey scavenging for derelict tech on Jakku.
2) Call to Adventure – This is where the Hero realizes there is a larger, more adventurous world that they are being beckoned to. Harry Potter gets his letter from Hogwarts.
3) Refusal of the Call – In a moment of doubt, the Hero decides not to go on the quest. Luke Skywalker informs Obi-Wan Kenobi that he can’t make the journey to Alderaan.
4) Meeting with the Mentor – This is either the first encounter with the mentor, or the moment when the mentor encourages the hero to go on the quest. Goku meets Master Roshi.
5) Crossing the First Threshold – The hero crosses over from the Ordinary World to the Special World, and sees the difference between the two. Link leaves the Kokiri Forest to meet Zelda.
6) Tests, Allies, Enemies – The hero begins to undertake increasingly difficult tasks, meets friends who will aid them, and foes who try to stop them. Katniss meets Rue in the arena, and faces the other tributes.
7) Approach – The destination is within sight, and the main character begins preparing mentally and emotionally – Mario sees Bowser’s castle, and begins to prepare for the road.
8) Ordeal – The central conflict in the story. The big boss fight! Danger and death are imminent! Jack O’ the Green battles against the evil Darkness in an effort to save Princess Lily.
9) Reward – Having slain the enemy, the Hero is free to take the treasure; this can be a rescued person, a reclaimed magical item, or something more abstract like world peace. After Smaug’s defeat, the dwarves are free to reclaim their treasure and their dwelling place.
10) Apotheosis – All of the Hero’s growth comes to a head and manifests itself all at once in a moment of radical change – this realization is the death blow to the old self and beliefs. After defeating Dracula, Simon Belmont recognizes the honor of his place in his lineage.
11) The Road Back – The Special World, with all of its lessons and adventures, is the Hero’s second home – returning to the first is often harder than the initial departure. Frodo has a hard time re-adapting to normal life as a hobbit in the Shire.
12) Master of Two Worlds – The Hero returns home changed, and uses their newfound gifts to better others; the Hero reconciles their past self with the new self. Luke restores balance to the Force, bringing peace to the galaxy, and resolving his relationship with his father.
There it is. The codified, human undercurrent tying together story and myth. Aside from the examples I gave, I’m sure you have dozens more running through your head.
That was a lot to take in, so let’s hit pause for a little perspective. Notice a few things:
– The natures of the hero, the villain, the struggle, and the journey itself are all fluid – This means that women and men, human, natural, and internal villains, physical, spiritual, and mental struggles, and any manner of twists and turns along the journey are not only included – they’re embraced. That’s because:
– This is universal, manifesting itself everywhere – This suggests that we’re dealing with something outside of culture, outside modern schools of thought, and outside of personal bias. This is a template — there are deep universal Truths underpinning it.
Really, it suggests that there’s a universal Hero and a universal Villain, and that there is a universe-wide battle between the two, between Good and Evil. And all other story and myth is a manifestation of that journey, and that battle.
– This applies directly to your life – You are presented with the opportunity to live this life. No would-be hero is excluded. All of your hopes and dreams, and the fears and pains you struggle with in this life can be viewed through this lens, and you can make the choice to live heroically, or to shrink from your destiny and remain ordinary.
But… hold on.
Did you notice that?
Your story as a Christian. Right there among all the other heroes.
Think back to your testimony.
Think about the Ordinary World, where you were dead in your trespasses and sins.
Imagine the moment you first considered Christ’s sacrifice as the Call to Adventure.
Surely you Refused the Call at first – but eventually, perhaps through Meeting with a Mentor, you Crossed the Threshold and entered into the wide-open spaces of God’s grace and forgiveness, free to live a life in service of the Ultimate Good in all the Universe.
Can you see that God has called you on an adventure?
This isn’t hippie, new-age woo, nor is it Godless anthropological hand-waving.
This is the Master Plan of the all-powerful God of the Universe, the way that He has designed His children to live, and an invitation for every Christian to weave their story into God’s Grand Story – of redeeming His beloved mankind and making all things new. You need not feel spiritually icky reading about this – God has woven it into His Word and His Design of humans.
Sinner or Saint?
Now, I hear you – I get it.
“But I’m just a broken sinner saved by grace! I can’t really think of myself as a hero – I should be more humble than that.”
It’s amazing the ways we learn to twist Scripture in order to convince ourselves and others not to do what it says.
First off – you’re not a sinner who sometimes gets it right by God’s grace.
You’re a saint. A blood-bought, Spirit-enabled, holy person with 24/7, one-on-one access to the throne room of the Creator of the Universe.
We have such a defeatist tendency to think of ourselves just as sinners who hopelessly mess everything up just by trying. Paul didn’t address even the church at Galatia as sinners, but as saints – and he wrote the Epistle to the Galatians specifically to discipline them for their sins!
When God looks at you, He sees the righteousness of His son. And we have been “blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3) Literally, the same power that God used to divinely enable His son to live a perfect life exists in you because Christ Himself gave it to you. While that doesn’t mean that you should expect to be perfect, you can accept that it’s not an impossible task when Paul exhorts you to do things like “Be Imitators of God” (Eph. 5:1). That’s not an impossible goal. That’s a lifestyle.
Or look to the “Saints Hall of Fame” in Hebrews Chapter 11. Read deeply of all the brave, daring acts of these ordinary humans whom God redeemed and empowered by faith to live heroic lives. This isn’t the exception. It’s the standard.
In that light, isn’t it a little bit easier to swallow that God might want you… even expect you… to live a heroic life?
God’s Commission to the Hero
Everything changes when you see yourself as the hero.
Seriously, there is no undercutting how incredible a step this is.
You go from being wishy-washy, having flimsy priorities and unimportant commitments, taking the various paths of least resistance through a familiar, but unremarkable life… to living in radical service to only the Most Important Things, making a real, eternal impact on the world around you every day, and experiencing the fun, joy, and adventure that comes from perpetually choosing heroic living.
As the hero:
– You are involved in a world much grander than your old one – Your life is on a heightened scale – it’s no longer just about bills, and work, and schedules, and routines. As important as those all are, they are subjected to the Grand Story that spans all of time, and you are given a role to play. God has enabled you to live a heroic life. This is often the biggest shift for new believers – recognizing that even though their life might become less comfortable, it becomes so much grander and so much more adventurous. The same can be said for Frodo and Luke Skywalker. The sacrifices are more than worth living a more epic life.
– You need never give up – because with Christ you can always overcome or find a way through. God Himself will keep you from falling headlong – and when you make mistakes, you have God’s encouragement to keep trying. (Prov. 24:16) Though you might be “pressed on all sides”, you will not be crushed. (2 Cor. 4:9)
– Even the hardships and the dark times can serve to strengthen and grow you – God works all things – including hardships, temptations, and the brokenness of a fallen world – for your good. (Rom. 8:28)
– You will make allies – When you are in need of help, you’ll have allies to come alongside and help you up.
– You are destined for greatness – If you are on the other side of the One Decision that Matters, your eternal destiny is greatness, glory, and a hero’s welcome. And nothing can take that from you. No failure can change the ending to your story – to God’s Story.
Alright. You’re chomping at the bit to get started on this hero stuff. Right?
Who doesn’t want to “take up their sword” and get started on the road to their destiny?
But we can’t charge out without a plan – without knowing what we are actually supposed to do.
What Makes A Hero
I think that if I were to ask this question in a room of 100 people, I’d get 100 disparate comments. But what are the commonalities? What are the absolute essentials to heroic living, manifested in all world cultures and lived out by the Son of God Himself?
I’ll tell you one thing – being the hero isn’t all superpowers, cool costumes, a ripped physique & a big lifestyle.
It isn’t even about epic fights, mental toughness, or quippy one-liners.
It means dedicating yourself – even sacrificing yourself, if need be – to Love God, better the world, & combat threats to humanity.
The costumes, the one-liners – those are cool, but they do not a hero make. In fact, they just as easily categorize the villain.
What matters is that dedication to the Ultimate Good of all humanity. A life lived in passionate service to that Good is always an adventure of epic proportions.
Yes, it’s scary. But as with any hero who sees the promise of stepping beyond the threshold — once you have seen the potential for something greater — you should be unwilling to settle for anything less than what is possible.
God Himself has equipped you with Knowledge, with Creativity, with Passion – and He has commissioned you to dedicate your life to leveraging those things for His glory, the betterment of the world, and the protection and salvation of humanity. You have been created, equipped, and called specifically for this wide-open adventure of heroic living.
And He who created, equipped, and called you… will be with you every step of the way.
That’s the most important part… All I can do is give you a little nudge out of the door.