There is a book by Louis L’Amore called The Lonesome Gods. One of the messages was that as people moved on to new beliefs or died out as a society, the gods they had once worshiped were forgotten and became less of a god by the lack of adoration and dwindling number of devotees. When talking about the numerous gods of the native peoples he was mentioning, I understood the idea and thought it a touching concept. Yet, I could never really apply that to God, the Christian God, that I know as creator and savior.
See, God isn’t God because of us. God’s power is His power regardless of a single person believing in Him. We can have a relationship with God and it drastically changes us, but does it change Him? I believe He is the same now as He was when He first began creation, so I’d have to say no. Yet, He is living and He loves us and He longs for relationship with us, hence creating us in the first place, so I’d have to say yes. Here’s the cool part about God being God: both can make sense and it’s totally okay. I don’t have to try to fit Him in a box that I can fully understand.
Now, on a more mortal realm, we have heroes. A hero is a person of courage, noble qualities, outstanding achievements. If someone runs into a burning building and saves a life, we call them a hero and no one questions a thing. If someone throws themselves in front of another and takes the bullet not meant for them, the same thing happens. Those are cut and dry sacrifices risking personal loss for the sake of another.
Someone giving lots of money to feed the poor may be on your list of heroes, but what if their giving was not a sacrifice? What if it was a throwaway gesture because they have more than they’ll ever need; and, they didn’t actually care about the poor but wanted to be seen doing something good? If they never felt the loss of what they gave, it doesn’t count as a sacrifice. But what if they care very deeply? What if they understand and fully appreciate the weight of their contribution? What if it is just one of many such contributions that they give freely because they know they are blessed to be in a position to help others?
Then what about those who have very little and still help others? There is no moral question about the motives behind their giving. Yet there is often less of an appreciation for their actions because of the lesser dollar amount involved. Yet, their sacrifice is much greater.
But what about when saving a life doesn’t look like saving a life? What if it is a fringe group that you don’t understand? You can dismiss the selfless or noble efforts of one because you are unwilling to put yourself in their shoes or the shoes of their recipients. But does that mean they are not a hero? You are putting them in a box, labeling them as something that may be true in your eyes, but nobility that does not benefit you is still nobility. Selflessness that is not relatable to your experiences or understanding is still selfless.
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. They may not even consciously decide to act in a positive way. Ofttimes, they are simply being their authentic selves and completely unaware of the impact they have on those around them, let alone the impact they have of those viewing them across the miles or even across the centuries. Heroes are people like Boudica, a queen whose king died and left their kingdom at risk of Roman invasion and slavery, who took up her sword, steered her chariot, and fought back. This woman (and even today women are underestimated solely because of their gender, so imagine back in A.D. 60!) waged a war, gathering neighboring tribesmen who were no fans of hers and convincing them to fight alongside her tribe. She was pushed to the breaking point but kept going, she was knocked down and kept getting back up, she was flogged and watched her daughters be raped, and she still rallied and fought. She had no concept of her story being told for two thousand years. She did what she had to do, what she felt was right, and she died doing it.
Heroes are people like the kid on the playground at school who breaks away from his friends because there is someone alone. He strikes up a conversation and invites them into the group. He erases the invisibility of otherness, even at the risk of his friends teasing or rejecting him.
Heroes are the abused, the broken and downtrodden, the oppressed and the disabled, who get up every day and go through the motions of whatever jobs or tasks their lives entail. They don’t give up. Someone out there is having a hard time and is holding on to their inspiration to not give up. They don’t have to give grand speeches. They don’t have to be recognized. They are a hero simply because they are. And whether anyone sees it or not, whether they are ever aware of it themselves or not, they are still a hero by the very nature of their existence. Some will overcome their circumstances. Some will give speeches and write books. Some will inspire a multitude. Some will simply trudge on and survive. They may only inspire one. They are all equally heroic to the one who needs to know that they are not alone; who needs to know that they, too, can keep going through the mud and the muck of life.
Heroes can be gay or transgender. They may be every definition of wrong that most onlookers have. But they may, by being true to themselves, save the life of one who feels alone and lost and is ready to take those pills or cut that wrist. Suddenly, they are not alone. Suddenly, they wait and attempt to live another day because there was one heroic light shining in their darkness, willing to stand up and say that what you are, whatever you are, is okay. The hero is willing to be berated or face personal threats or attacks to get the message to those hurting that opinions change, society changes, and it is worth it to stick around fighting for the change we want to see in the world.
There are military veterans, police officers, and firefighters, who sacrifice time away from their families to protect their communities. They know that any given day may be the day that they do not come home. And yet they lace up their boots, they polish their badges, they strap on their tools, because today is the day that they are needed to help someone who cannot help themselves. You can be against war and recognize the sacrifice. You can be against the media-strewn images of the bad cops that definitely exist and still recognize the need for good police to protect and serve. I don’t know anyone against firefighters, but I’m sure there are some. The point is, some jobs need doing and some brave souls are willing to do them despite the risks that they face every single day they go to work!
We can try to put God in a box, confine Him by what we are capable of understanding about Him. That is quite ridiculous because if we believe that we can fully and completely understand God, then we have just negated the very fact that He is God and bigger than us. We have limited Him. Heroes are not gods, even with a little g, but the concept still applies. By trying to put heroes in neatly labelled boxes of worthy and unworthy, simply based on our ability to understand and relate to their actions, we are being ridiculous. My hero is my hero because what they have said and done and who they are mean something to me, inspire me, drive me to be a better person, lift me out of the darkness. They have shown me that I’m not alone in the world. They have given me something that I usually cannot put in words. Just because you do not understand them does not make it not so. I’m fully confident in my heroes being my heroes and my God being my God, that they are not diminished by others having different beliefs. I will never put your hero or your God in a box based on my limited understanding of them and their impact on you. I hope to one day live in a world where that courtesy is reciprocated.