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You can be a hero

When was the last time you felt heroic? And what does it mean to be a hero anyway? I don’t think it’s trite to say that Jesus was the ultimate hero. I love the way the Over the Rhine lyric puts it: Here and there I see my savior’s face He’s still my favorite loser Falling for the entire …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
When was the last time you felt heroic? And what does it mean to be a hero anyway? I don’t think it’s trite to say that Jesus was the ultimate hero. I love the way the Over the Rhine lyric puts it:
Here and there I see my savior’s face
He’s still my favorite loser
Falling for the entire human race
In losing, he won. That’s the essence of heroism: sacrificing for someone else who is in peril. It’s something we long to do, but rarely are able to pull off. When I was a missionary in
Indonesia, I discovered David Bowie’s song “Heroes” (see video below).
I loved the evocative way Bowie described the primal yearning in all of
us to transcend our mundane reality. The song, obscure at the time, itself became representative of the heroic cycle, 23 years later coming out of nowhere to be named #46 on the Rolling Stone list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
You can tell a lot about a person by their heroes – the people they look up to as models; the people they think about and read about. Is it a sports hero? A celebrity? A mentor?  Recently my friend Bubba Fortner blogged about the three stages that a hero goes through: Departure, Initiation, and Return.
The story of Odysseus stands as an archetype of the heroic life. Typically the hero’s life is framed as a journey. Joseph Campbell describes it in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces.   

“Once upon a time, in a far-off land, lived a hero who was prosperous, happy, and respected by all.  One day, three visitors arrived.  They began pointing out the hero’s many flaws and told him he was unfit to remain.  The hero resisted, but to no avail.  He was ousted from his land and sent off to a few he met during his exile, he transformed himself and vowed to make his way back.  And eventually he did return, where he was welcomed to a place he scarcely recognized, but that he still understood was home.”
This could be you. You could be a hero if you could find people in peril and sacrifice for them. And you could be a hero if you gave yourself to God’s dream. It will cost you and you’ll feel like you failed along the way. But your story could be a hero’s story. If there are heroic elements to my life, it’s because I’ve given myself to God’s dream for the poor and the oppressed, at times being willing to put all my chips on it. Here’s how my story is unfolding so far:

[THE DEPARTURE]  After graduating from college, I spent nine successful years preparing for a career in ministry. But it came to a sudden and confusing end when I was asked to leave an enterprise I’d helped start. I was discouraged and ready to give up on the prospect of a ministry career. But in the midst of this, God spoke to me and told me to “not grow weary in well-doing.”

[THE INITIATION]  I had a young family with five children under the age of seven. It was in the midst of this personal crisis that I started Adventures In Missions. A couple of years later, through further crisis, I gradually I began to learn to hear the Lord’s voice and follow his direction. As our children grew, I learned more about the process of discipling them. AIM grew and I grew in my desire to see young people walk as Jesus walked.

[THE RETURN]  In 1994, we sold our home in Florida and moved to Georgia. AIM began to grow at a rapid rate, discipling young people around the world. A decade later we began to work intensively in Africa. Inspired by Andrew Shearman, I began to explore the theme of kingdom and how to help people understand its reality. As our children have grown and left our home, Karen and I have begun devoting ourselves to discipling a generation as Jesus did. We’re committed to seeing Jesus’ goal of taking his gospel to the nations realized.
So, that’s me. Where is your life headed – what path are you on? Is there something bigger than you you’re making sacrifices for? Many of you are in the middle of your own heroic story. Don’t give up – the best is yet to come. Recognize that you have to go through a phase of death and commitment to a cause much larger than yourself before you get there. What stage do you find yourself in? Where do you see your life going?

Comments (6)

  • Inspiring post! Nothing is as inspiring to the human soul as a hero. Though we live in a day when the word “hero” is thrown about cheaply, this of course doesn’t negate the fact that they are actual heroes in our midst. For those struggling at the moment in their journey, remember this: in any hero’s story one finds both peaks and valleys. Thanks Seth for this exhortation to push on and be the inspiration this generation so desperately needs.

  • We all are inspired at some level by the heroic.

    In the days after 9/11 my company was retained by Lisa Beamer who had the sad privilege of being married to a real hero.

    Todd’s declaration: “Let’s roll!” became a rallying cry for people stunned by the attack on the World Trade Center.

    But as she volunteered in a meeting once “Todd was an everyday hero”.

    He showed up for life. Loved God. Cared for his children. Was committed to his wife and friends.

    And in the moment of deep testing He had Jesus as a reservoir of greatness.

    We all need a hero.

    And we are given the power to be one in everyday life often away from the glare of affirming glances.

  • Hey Seth,

    Great post, especially where you mention that there is a death and commitment phase before you get to where you want to be. I think too many people forget that, and lose heart when the way gets tough. I feel like I am in the pre-departure stage of my heroic journey, kind of like packing your bags and making sure that you have your phone charger. Right now, I am just itching to pull up my anchor and set sail. You had a blog about having a yes in your spirit to fulfilling your purpose. I said yes immediately, but I felt God say, “No, not right now.” So now, I am trying to prepare in any way necessary for when I get the green light to move. The downside is that I am getting stir crazy, and I am looking to God’s Word to keep me sane and at peace in the meantime.

  • Great blog. I’ve been learning a lot about this path and I’m still trying to figure out which part of it I’m on. I guess since my wife and I are leaving for the race in January we’re probably in the departure stage. But I’m so set on learning about kingdom and enabling future generations (including our kids) to go further and further in living God’s kingdom and shining light into darkness.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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