(Original Max Fleisher Superman courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
(Originally written for Speaking to the Soul, March 25, 2012)
Daily Office Readings for Sunday, March 25, 2012:
Psalm 118 (morning)
Psalm 145 (evening)
There's no doubt, one of my favorite comic book genres growing up included superhero comics (mystery/horror being my other favorite)--and my two favorite superheroes were Superman and Wonder Woman. I could identify with Superman's foundling status in Smallville, where I sort of belonged to rural northeast Missouri in some ways and didn't belong in others (or were these the beginning nudges of understanding myself as a child of God?) Growing up in the 1960's, as the status of women changed and evolved almost daily, Wonder Woman was somewhat comforting to my sense that women could do just fine, left to their own devices (how I wanted to retreat to that society of Amazons where no one said, "Girls don't/can't do that!")
Our readings today, however, take us to a place where we discover that God is more likely to send prophets out in the world revealing vulnerabilities, rather than invulnerable superheroes. One of the signs God gives to Moses to reveal to the people is to be able to put his hand in his cloak and reveal it to be covered with leprosy, put it back, and show it healed by God--to reveal that he, a prophet, can be rendered into a state of exile, too--that only the power of God can restore us. Paul tells us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. In John's Gospel, Jesus speaks truths about those present, and about God to the point they are about to stone him.
Once again, God is turning things upside down compared to conventional wisdom. Superman would not willingly walk into a room full of Kryptonite--it was more likely Lex Luthor would ambush him with it. Without her bullet-repelling bracelets, Wonder Woman is just as vulnerable as the rest of us--and how in the world can she discern the truth without her Golden Rope?
There's no doubt, if given a choice, we'd rather put our best foot forward in service to God--not our worst. We'd rather concentrate on our future with God, not our present, and especially not our past. Frankly, we know what we are not. We can remember in living color all the things in our lives we did wrong or the times we behaved poorly. We know full well our shadow side. We know we are sinners and we can't even imagine ourselves as saints.
Richard Rohr, in his book "On the Threshold of Transformation," writes, "The hero in us wants to attack, fix, or deny the existence of our dark side. We can also be tempted to share dramatically everything about it as a way to control it (sometimes called ventilating or dumping). The saint merely weeps over the shadow and forgives it—and by God’s grace forgives himself for being a mere human."
Perhaps the way through this is best expressed in our Exodus reading, when Moses himself points out that his speech impediment is his biggest shadow in this new role as prophet, and God's answer is "Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak."
All that we are--and that includes our missteps, our defects, and our secrets--have transformational power in the service of God, if we can only let go of our death grip on them and hold them up to God's light. If we can allow ourselves to be wrapped up in God's arms as tightly as Wonder Woman wrapped folks in her Golden Rope of Truth, perhaps we'll discover another truth--that what we thought was Kryptonite wasn't really Kryptonite, after all.