I love old 80’s and 90’s cartoons. I love the over-the-top action, the color (oh man that color pallet!), and the laser guns. Like for real, every bad guy was armed with a laser gun (Fun fact from Joshua’s film knowledge, it was a law that you could not have real guns on children TV shows. Oh, how far we’ve gone). The best part of these cartoons were the public service announcements. G.I. Joe, Transformers, and X-men would all warn children of the dangers of not wearing seatbelts or talking with strangers; always ending with the phrase, “knowing is half the battle.” I love these commercials, not only because it’s good to not go anywhere near that spooky stranger, but it tells us a lot about how we should prepare in a spiritual battle we face. I’ve been talking each week this month about having spiritual victory, which means, knowing our enemy is half the battle. Satan is the king of lies, which we talked about last week, and often in our lives when we are caught off our guard, we can take challenges and lies as being things of God. We ask God why you would do this, the truth is, he didn’t. God created our world to be perfect and everything in it to be good, but we rebelled because off the trickery from Satan.
May is Mental Health Month. This is something near and dear to my heart, both as I have suffered from anxiety and depression, as well as countless people in my life that have dealt with similar mental health struggles. It’s important to shine a light on mental health, because for far too long people have been scared to open up and get the help that they need. I think as Christ followers, we need to realize that often mental health is tied into spiritual health. I’m not saying that if you struggle with mental health issues that your spiritual walk with Christ is lacking, I would be foolish to insinuate that. For the most part though, I do believe that mental health can be used against us as we try to grow closer in our walks with Christ. We often feel the most pressure and mental attack when we are on the path God has set out for us. As we walk in the giftedness that God has equipped us with and fight towards reaching the world, that same mad titan that we talked about last week (check it out here), begins to switch up his tactic. If he can’t bring us down by a storm, he’ll try his best with a whisper. “You’re not good enough.” “That test defines who you are.” “What they say about you is true.” The father of lies (John 8:44), these thoughts, they can so easily take root and begin to choke out all life, but they have no power over our great God. These thoughts that are whispered in our minds can disrupt our progress, and the truth is, we need to realize that it’s not about us.
At the time of writing this, Avengers: Infinity War, is only a few days away. I’ve been waiting years for this. Literal years. I love comics, and when Iron-Man first came out, my dad and I stayed after the credits and saw a glimpse of Nick Fury talking to Tony Stark about a little team he was putting together. Then, years after that, Marvel’s Avengers premiered, with another scene after the credits showing a smiley purple guy. I left the theater stunned, Thanos was coming. Being a comic kid, I knew the mad titan, a really bad dude who leaves a wake of destruction in his path. A big purple alien from the moon of titan, bent on taking over the galaxy and harnessing the power within it. Then he gets even more power with infinity gems, and all hope seems lost. The avengers have to band together to stop an unstoppable force. I can’t wait to see this in film form, but this mad titan reminds me of some of the same struggles we face in our own lives. Do you ever feel like whenever you are moving forward, something always seems to go wrong? Something begins to tempt you, a person in your life says words that hurt your soul, you fight those thoughts of self-doubt and loathing in your mind; it can seem almost impossible to survive. These are cases of what we call “spiritual attack.” This can be worse than a physical attack, often crippling us, but the fact is, when we remember our savior we find new hope. The mad titan is nothing compared to the love of God.
This past week, a tornado struck my home city of Greensboro, North Carolina. It came fast and hard, leaving a path of destruction in its wake. The night it happened no one really knew how bad. It hit the east side of the city, a place where attention hasn’t always been given. That night people were in chaos, I talked to a man who was not too far from where they struck and he told me that he was one of the first on the scene that night. He said it was like a warzone, absolute chaos and not much hope. The next day people began to mobilize, no one organization was the first to start, but a grassroots movement of the community began to take place. No company, government, or large entity; simply a community of people with one mindset: This is our city. On Tuesday, the staff at church began to simply walk in the streets affected by the storms. Door to door, doing what they could; grassroots. I was sick in bed Tuesday, but after seeing the full impact the storm left, my heart was heavy. Action Comics made history by being the first American comic to reach a thousand issues, Tuesday night it came out. What makes Superman so iconic is not the immense power, but the symbol of hope. Our city is filled with Supermen and Superwomen. On Wednesday morning, I went to the Peeler Rec Center, which is one of the main hubs in Greensboro to get involved. It opened a food kitchen and I chose to be there every day. We were a community, a true community. Neighbors coming together; a grassroots movement to help our city have hope. That’s the beauty of it all, I can’t explain why God lets things like this happen, but I do know that after the storm, there is a rainbow; a symbol of hope.
In May of 2014, I started this blog. I recently looked back at my first official post talking about what this blog was going to be all about. It’s pretty simple, lots of spelling and grammatical errors, but it was the start of something I would continue to do every week. From that point, a lot of crazy life events happened. Sometimes I wish I could go back and let that kid know about the battles that would be fought and the heartache that would come. I love being able to look back at the past. I never want to linger too much, but it always amazes me at how God has continued to move in my life in all things. I wrote a post in 2015, right at the start of the roller coaster God was going to bring me on. I had faced bullies, church hurt, and feeling un-wanted; but I could not have seen the next chapter in my life. In that same year I would lose two friends, have a family member suffer from addiction, and feel an overwhelming sense of fear about my next steps in life. I started that crazy season with a post about a verse that stuck out to me. I look back not and see just how God moved in the midst of all things.
Some of my favorite descriptions of words, phrases, and grammar come from Lemony Snicket. I gushed about his books a couple weeks ago, so check it out if you haven’t. One of the descriptions he talks of is the saying, “in the belly of the beast.” It speaks of a figurative feeling one gets when in the middle of an unfortunate circumstance, but in scripture, there is a literal event where one particular individual is in, “the belly of the beast.” Jonah was a man who God called for a great mission, but he trusted his own power and not God’s. Because of this, he believed he could not accomplish it, so he ran. Isn’t that a perfect picture of what we do in our own lives? I’m a victim of it, we have a situation we think we can’t overcome, so we run, we retreat from the promise on the other side of facing great peril. The truth is, we rely too much on our own strength when we should be trusting God. We have a God who created the universe and loves us. You’re right thinking you can’t get through it, but God can. No matter what you’re facing, God can. The calling that looks too big? God can. The mountain in your life? God can. When it feels like the world is against you and there is no hope? God can. We can learn much from Jonah, we can learn how to act in the belly of the beast.
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
Anger is my go-to reaction. I struggled with self-control for most of my childhood. It felt like there was always this deep ball of rage inside of me that was ready to explode at the drop of a hat. I relate very much to that of the Marvel hero, The Incredible Hulk, mild mannered Bruce Banner, but as soon as something makes him angry, he turns into a green rage monster. Yeah, that was basically how I felt (and sometimes still feel). Big or little, it didn’t matter what it was, I got angry at people. Now, I wasn’t getting into fist fights with people, mainly just not-so-great words yelled. I would hold these grudges against people, I never wanted to let go, I never wanted to forgive. Maybe it was spite, the thought that they would see my grudge and stop what they had done horribly wrong. I directed this rage at my family which would hurt our relationships, I directed the anger at my bullies in hopes that I could one day get back at them, and I directed bitterness towards anyone else who wanted to get close. What I learned in my un-forgiveness was that I had chained myself and created a prison for myself.
Life is weird. I continually face this. The idea of the unknown is such a scary thing to me. Part of me thought these feelings of fear would go away once I finished college. Like, ah yes, there is the exact path I was meant to take! Unfortunately, life really doesn’t work like that. It’s simply a series of events that shape us, mold us into who we are. That scares me. I like to have a plan, a clear direction about what to do and where to go, but it doesn’t work that way. It’s funny to see older posts where I’ve written about the same idea. Each one was at a different crossroad of my life, and it seemed as if that one decision would be the only choice that would define me. I think that’s the reason why many of us fear big decisions, we worry that this one choice will shape our lives forever. The truth is, these choices aren’t a make or break, they’re small steps of trust in our creator.
I’ve recently been reading through Hebrews. This is an interesting and powerful book to look at, especially where my life is at currently. There’s a ton of unknowns and struggles that I have to face, it can be hard to trust God in the midst of a storm. In Christian culture, it can feel wrong to question what’s going on in our lives, we have this idea that we can never wrestle with our circumstances. That we can’t cry out to God asking him where he is or why he isn’t acting in this situation. Like it’s some sin to struggle. I’ve heard of some Christians looking down on others because they aren’t having enough faith in this situation. Enough faith? We’re supposed to support one another, not look down because we think we’re better than other believers. Jesus wouldn’t want us to pride ourselves on putting our fellow believers down when they were struggling, he would want us to support and love. Why is this even a thought that we have in the first place though? I’ve been feeling down on myself based on this misconception, am I not a “good” Christian because I ask God why he’s doing what he’s doing? The truth is, this is a lie. Hebrews chapter 11 justifies this because it shows people who lived by faith. They were recorded for their great faith, but every single one of them wrestled with God.
“One person could be overpowered. But two people can stand up for themselves. And a rope made out of three cords isn’t easily broken.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea of unity and community. As people, we are intrinsically tied to others. We have a craving for human interaction and seek it out in different avenues. Even for introverts like myself, it’s great to have alone time, but having coffee with a friend is so life giving. We need each other, we crave being connected to others around us, but something is wrong. We begin to fight two struggles, we lack community and unity. We push people away because we’re afraid of them hurting us or us hurting them. We live in a world where people are divided based on perpetrated stereotypes of race. We believe we are better than others or think others are better than us. We are in a fight. We are in a fight for our connection to others, and we fight it because we have an enemy that doesn’t want us to live in freedom.