I didn’t mean to give you a David Bowie earworm with that title, so sorry. Please read on nonetheless.
In the kind of world we live in today – one where we wake up to news of crazed gunmen and mass murder – we need to champion the good in people. We need to acknowledge the heroes all around us.
The word “hero” is most well-known in the context of those who put themselves in harm for others, like police officers and firefighters, or to refer to popular movie characters with extraordinary abilities. But “hero” can mean so much more than that. People we admire as role models or for special personal qualities are heroes. And, even in this messed up world, they’re everywhere; we just have to be looking for them.
I’m a little obsessed with heroes of all kinds and why people yearn for them so much. I’ve even seriously debated going back to school to study what the hero represents in literature and pop culture.
You’re a hero to someone whether you know it or not. Let me prove it to you.
But hold onto your cape because this’ll take a minute.
This past weekend, I attended WOMAN Conference 2017 in Little Rock, Arkansas. WOMAN is an annual event hosted by the main campus of New Life Church (NLC). NLC has multiple campuses in Arkansas, and now Florida; my family and I call the Hot Springs campus our church home. WOMAN brings together thousands of women (this year, 3000+) from all the campuses for a day-and-a-half of praise and worship and poignant teaching, from the likes of Darlene Zschech and Mercy Lokulutu.
As you might guess, at a conference of this size, it’s likely that you’ll run into lots of folks. I ran into an old friend, Angie Aduddell. I’d forgotten that Angie and her husband, Chad, recently started attending NLC’s new Downtown Little Rock campus. So when I saw her at WOMAN, I did a double-take and excitedly hugged her neck. As I walked away, I texted my husband, “I just ran into Angie Aduddell!” To which he replied, “Cool,” and then, “We should thank them for getting us involved in church … they changed our lives.”
“They changed our lives.”
In 2006, Bryan and I uprooted our little family out of our comfort zone. We moved from Birmingham, Alabama, to Corpus Christ, Texas, so that Bryan could pursue a career in healthcare administration. We knew the move would change our lives but we didn’t know just how much. We had lived no more than 5 or 10 minutes away from his parents for the first 7 years of our marriage and for the birth of our first 2 children. We had never needed to rely on anyone outside of ourselves and family members. We called ourselves Christian and attended church when we felt like it. We only lived in Corpus Christi for about 18 months, which I’ve often said was 18 months too long. I didn’t like it there, but I’m the first to admit that we needed to be there.
Moving there for Bryan’s career, I had decided to stay home with the kids – and have a third as it turned out. We knew no one other than Bryan’s coworkers, and I certainly felt isolated at first. But Bryan worked with Chad (yes, Angie’s Chad), and the Aduddells invited us to visit their church, Real Life Fellowship. Neither Bryan nor I had ever experienced a church like Real Life before. The pastor, Micah Davidson, had such a way of delivering the message. He helped us see the Word as real and practical even today, rather than the ancient, untouchable text that lost its application a millennium ago. I finally understood what people meant when they said someone was anointed; I knew Micah had been touched by God. Bryan and I became more involved: we attended a lifegroup hosted by Micah and his wife Lori; we went to church events outside of a Sunday morning service; I did several Bible studies with Angie (and shared pregnancy woes, since we were both pregnant with our third at the same time); and we sought out ways to draw closer to God. Jesus became our friend rather than simply a historical figure we revered. It wasn’t long before Real Life felt like home to us, and church became the one bright spot in a place I didn’t like.
Then Bryan took a job in Tennessee, and we had to say goodbye to our Real Life family. We found a church there and continued our walk, but Real Life and Micah became a standard for us. We’d developed a hunger for God and measured every church we visited by whether it fed us like we’d been fed in Corpus Christi.
Fast forward to 2014, we moved to my childhood hometown of Hot Springs. We’d attended an NLC campus previously, so we opted to not “church shop” and went the first Sunday we were here to the NLC Hot Springs campus. And we were home again. Even for someone like me, who has all the words, it’s sometimes hard to describe what NLC means to me. And I worry that saying it means home doesn’t quite convey its importance. Pastors Cory and Tanner Cangelosi have such a heart for people that I feel I become a better person simply by being in their presence. I’d have never taken time off work to attend a church conference before coming to NLC. I’d have made some excuse as to why I couldn’t go and hide in my own personal world of life’s busy-ness. Oh, how thankful I am to have changed.
My text to Bryan about seeing Angie got him thinking about Micah again. When I got home from WOMAN, he was excited to share one of Micah’s recent messages that he’d found online. He’d searched for Micah online and found a video of Micah delivering an opening prayer for the Texas Legislature several years ago. In the video, Micah introduced his sons, one biological and one recently adopted. Then, Bryan had found Micah in a Leadership Network: AHA! Video where he talked about dancing in the village the day he and Lori went to pick up their new son. Given that we’ve just said goodbye to our third foster placement, the idea of opening one’s home, family and heart to an orphaned child feels like a very personal message.
“We should thank them.”
Micah now pastors Real Life Austin, and part of his message the last weekend of September was on … are you ready for this? … heroes. Part of the “Drowning” sermon series, Sunday’s title was “Difficult People.” The sermon video opens with a news clip of people from Real Life Corpus Christi helping others – being heroes – in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Micah talked about being like a sponge, that we absorb what we surround ourselves with. We’re affected by the kind of people we spend the most time with. We should surround ourselves with those who have hearts of positivity rather than hearts of poison, those who are actively seeking God so that our own love for God and people can be strengthened as a result.
But we’re also called to be patient with difficult people (2 Timothy 2:23-25 NLT). We tend to classify people as difficult when they’re simply different than us. He used several well-known comic book heroes to represent the differences that are often present in people. You may have the “Superman” who seems to do everything better than you. Or you may have the “Batman” who always wears a mask and rarely shows his real self. Or even the “Joker” who doesn’t take anything seriously. But rather than pointing out the differences, which we often see as weaknesses, we should remember that we’re all heroes: we all have a God-ordained design.
Rather than trying to change those who are different than us, we need to change how we treat them. Be the heroes with hearts of positivity. Be the heroes who help strengthen others’ love for God and people.
I’ve named some of those heroes for me in this post. Who are yours?
Do they know it?