Your Superpowers Don't Work in the Valley of Suck

The Bible is full of some great word pictures which, while a bit archaic, still retain meaning.  The potter and clay (Jeremiah 18:1-6, Romans 9:21), refiner’s fire (Proverbs 25:4, Isaiah 1:25), and iron being sharpened (Proverbs 27:17, Ecclesiastes 10:10).  And while we might like to quote these, rarely do we want to actually live them.

Now contrast these with another image: “The throne of your heart.”  Can someone please give me a chapter and verse reference for this because I cannot seem to find it (and don’t bring up passages on idolatry).  I bring it up again (I mentioned it in a previous blog) because it continues to be used but more importantly, it continues to be used as a way to shame people.  So instead of using actual inspired Scripture, we’ve created our own word picture and “theology” to tell people bad things happen because you took Jesus off the throne of your heart.

Wrong.

I suspect the root of this comes from the “Four Spiritual Laws” booklet.   I get the use of this to help people understand the human condition as the Christian faith has tried to explain it. I know a number of folks who have come to follow Jesus through its use.  But like so many word pictures and stories and illustrations, it can only take you so far.  It does not explain the entirety of our lives and God’s revelation.  

And yes it is also a good word picture for describing idolatry.  We do set up things in our life before God.  Above anything else, we do place ourselves there and make our authority the driving factor in our lives.  We alone know best what will please us right?  Well, no.  At least that is not Christianity’s understanding of our situation.  But again, there is no speaking of a throne in our hearts.  A good word picture to a point but not enough to establish a faithful answer to theodicy: the problem of suffering and evil.

In “The Spirituality of Imperfection,” the authors note, “As children learn (and not least from stories), reality comes with suffering...as the very word signifies, is to be done to.  Thus it is that, in a very literal sense, suffering makes us real, for it defines our boundaries” (pg 235).  It is in suffering we come up against not ONLY our sinfulness and pride, but against our humanity and limitations.  There are boundaries which we come against because we have likely not really ever admitted, in our physical state; we are mortal - finite.  This has nothing to do with the throne of heart and everything to do with admitting just that we are human.

And you know what?  This sucks.  I think this is one reason why we love superhero movies so much these days.  I do not think it has to do with cheering for good guys or cool special effects.  We dream of super powers because we long for divinity here. NOW.  The fight between Superman and Batman in “Dawn of Justice” could easily symbolize reality pulling down fantasy.  Invincibility is an illusion.  I’m not sure there is a storyline of Superman coming to grips with grieving his parents death.  But for Batman/Bruce Wayne, that story arc has been dissected every which way - he is an imperfect hero but one most like us because he has walked the valley of suck, a million times over.

We’ve made putting Jesus on the throne of our hearts as something paramount to becoming a superhero.  We’ve created a work of fiction, a world of our own making, and we can insulate ourselves in it, rewrite it, rework it, and reboot it anytime we want.  

Only we cannot.  Death is still the equalizer.  Suffering is still our reality.  The valley of suck is not a made up journey, but the real road we often travel but refuse to name for fear people will find out the truth: I am Batman and I am human.  I am Bruce Wayne and I have no superpowers.

Well, this is kind of awkward isn’t it?  I sound like quite the pessimist.  I prefer realist but whatever, put whatever label you want on me.  You can even deduce I have taken Jesus off the throne of my heart.  I have suffered a lot lately so yeah, if that is YOUR theological construct that helps you sleep better, okay.  I took Jesus off the throne of my heart.  

And so have you.  

Jesus did not ask us to put him on the throne of our hearts, Jesus asked us to follow him and go into the world.  Jesus did not call us to pray the sinner’s prayer, he asked us to confess our sins regularly and come to the Table: to eat and drink and turn from our way to Jesus’ way.  He asked us to love our neighbor - even the one we hate - just like we love ourselves (and we all, in our own way, LOVE OURSELVES).  Is that playing semantics?  

Maybe or maybe it is a way of reorienting us once again.  You see, the “throne of our hearts” has a tendency to do something we are really good at: It makes it ALL about us again.  Following Jesus keeps us looking at Jesus.  Loving our neighbor puts our eyes on our neighbor.  Loving an enemy means focusing on love and not so much the hate we are harboring.

Those word pictures of iron, clay, and refining fire take us through the valley of suck where what is not needed is removed.  We are stripped of wastefulness, of extras, and of dullness.  We do not have to create suffering to walk this valley, it will come on it's own.  Jesus does not even promise us it gets easier if we put him on the throne!  You may not even have a place to lay your head as Jesus said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58).

It is hard to get anywhere if you are just sitting down.  Jesus did not set himself up to just rule us and rule our hearts.  His example was to be a servant (not a ‘servant-leader’).  He came to “seek and save what was lost” (Luke 19:10).  The Spirit of God even led Jesus into the desert (Luke 4:1), so how do we follow if we refuse to face deserts ourselves?  The journey we’re on is not to discover our superpowers but to realize, to admit, and to accept how much more we need God than we ever thought.  Whatever is your weakness, the valley of suck is like kryptonite, it will bring you back to ordinary.  And when we get to ordinary, then we are ready to start being a servant.  Only then can we become like Jesus.




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