If I asked you to name some heroes in the Bible, whom would you name? Moses? Joshua? Daniel? Those are good ones – but what about from the New Testament? Maybe John the Baptist? Peter? Paul? Mary – either one, really, Magdalene and/or the mother of Jesus? What makes them heroes?
Do you remember a decade or so back, before the Iraq War (Operation Desert Storm), there were some funny commercials running on the radio about ‘Real American Heroes’. Those beer commercials celebrated men in overlooked professions or with eccentric habits. Then September 11, 2001 happened and the country saw real American Heroes in action, those ads were pulled and eventually relaunched under the tag line of ‘Real Men of Genius’.
My point in this? Heroes often don’t look like heroes. Moses was an old man when God called him to return to Egypt for Israel. Paul killed Christians before God struck him blind and Enlightened him. Strangers helped other strangers out of the Towers before they collapsed. On doomed Flight 93, Todd Beamer led a small group of passengers in an attempt to retake the plane from hijackers. Ordinary people who were heroes without setting out to be one.
Are you a hero? I’m not talking about saving lives – although that certainly qualifies for hero status. We are heroes more than we realize. When we respond to the promptings of the Spirit of God, we can change another person’s life forever – that’s kind of heroic – at least in my books it is.
I’ve told this story before so forgive me if you’ve read it – when I was in my late 20s to early 30s I went through a super serious depression and thoughts of suicide were never far from my mind. One night, alone in my apartment, I began circling the Abyss, going deeper and deeper into the darkness, making the decision to end the pain that night. There was nothing but blackness ahead of me and all around me – there was no other way out but to die. As I lay in bed, giving into the darkness, letting it take me over, the phone rang. I didn’t want to answer so I let it ring. It rang and rang and rang. Finally, I crawled out of bed, into the kitchen where the phone hung on the wall, and answered. The caller was a friend who called to talk. I don’t even remember what about now, but she just talked and talked and talked and a long while later, I hung up the phone and I wasn’t thinking about death any more. We had made plans for the following day and in that time on the phone with her, she had unknowingly saved my life. And although our friendship eventually fell apart for unrelated reasons, she will always be a hero to me. She saved a life that night – mine – and I thank God for her and her willingness to respond to a prompting from Spirit to call me.
So, here’s my point, once again. Heroes don’t often look like heroes – you know, the burly types who save damsels and kittens in distress; they don’t necessarily wear uniforms; they aren’t paid to be heroes; they don’t necessarily walk into trouble when everyone else is running away. Heroes look like you and they look like me. When you smile and speak kind words to the sales clerk, you may save that person’s life. Those might be the words that keep them from the edge of tragedy. And then again, those words might fall on deaf ears. It’s not for us to know the impact we have on strangers we meet along the way. But it is for us to realize that everything we say and do has an impact – for good or for bad – on everyone else we come into contact with.
Here’s a modified Golden Rule to follow: Treat others the way God treats you – with tender, loving kindness and oceans of patience and compassion. This isn’t easy, of course. But who said walking with God would ever be easy?