My neighborhood holds trick-or treat on a weekend afternoon and so we had children coming around this past weekend dressed as all sorts of characters in search of free candy. There were a few truly unique costumes, a few of the teenager-in-a-hoody-and-mask variety, and several little princesses. But the majority of the costumes were superheroes. Girls and boys alike showed up as Captain America, Superman, Spiderman, Batman, and Ironman. It’s not surprising given our culture’s fascination with superheroes. Superheros dominate the movie box offices, they fill the toy shelves in stores, they are on T-shirts, backpacks, lunchboxes, socks, shoes, pencils, notebooks…you name it.
My husband is a big fan of the superhero movie genre. In all honesty I had hardly a clue about any of them until I met him. Now I see just about every superhero movie that comes out. At first it was just to be polite and accompany my husband. But now I truly enjoy many of them. Some are a bit too dark for my taste, but the overall idea of these movies appeals to me more and more.
What is it that draws the masses to see these movies? What is it about these stories, these characters, that crosses the lines of race, religion, politics, and economics to appeal to virtually everyone?
When it comes down to it, we all need a hero. The world is full of chaos, uncertainty, fear. We love to see the nerdy boy from high school discover his superpowers and embark on a journey to save the world. We love to see the most dire of situations be instantly turned around by the rag-tag group of misfits who have come together to use their powers for the greater good. They come together to fight injustice and to fight for freedom. They fight to protect the most innocent and vulnerable. They fight for life.
While these superheroes are amazing to watch in the movies, at some point we have to come back down to reality. The movie is finished and real life beckons. Of course, there are heroes in real life too.
Firefighters who rescue people from burning buildings are heroes. Soldiers who risk their lives to protect nations and freedom are heroes. Doctors and nurses who travel to Africa to care for those suffering from Ebola are heroes.
But now, despite our fascination with the life-saving superheroes, it seems a hero here in the real world is defined as something all together different. Now it seems the title “hero” is bestowed not upon those who vow to protect and preserve life, but rather the opposite.
In June of 2013 Wendy Davis performed a filibuster for 11 hours to prevent a vote on a measure that would halt abortions after 20 weeks, require abortion clinics to meet the same surgical standards as hospitals, and require doctors performing abortions to have admitting rights at a hospital. She was hailed as a champion for women’s rights. A “hero”.
In May of this year, 25 year old Emily Letts decided to have an abortion and to film it. She wanted to show that it’s not scary, that there should be no guilt, that it’s ok to have an abortion. She was called a “hero”.
Now Brittany Maynard, a 29 year old battling terminal brain cancer has chosen to end her own life this weekend. This beautiful woman has decided that to spare both herself and her family from the inevitable suffering that would ultimately lead to death anyway, she is going to die on her own terms. She has made popular in the media the so called right to die with dignity. And for her decision, she has been called a “hero.”
Every time I read one of these stories, my heart aches. Aches for those who fight for abortion in the name of women’s health and protecting our rights. Aches for those who truly believe that there is nothing wrong with an abortion. Aches for those who, when faced with immeasurable sufferings, feel the only option is to die.
My heart aches for what we have reduced life to. Something that we have control over. Or at least we think we do. We have reduced life to something we can create in test tubes, monitor for signs of “imperfection” and dispose of when we find things that are too tough to deal with. To something that comes secondary to our own desires and goals. We have reduced life to something that, when it gets too tough to bear, can be stopped.
Life is more than that. There is beauty in life, even in the darkest of moments. Beauty because each life is precious and created by our loving Father. To look for the beauty, to find it even when others cannot see it, that is what makes a hero. To look past the pain and suffering and see a glimmer of joy. I believe that there are heroes all around us. Heroes who battle cancer to the very end. Who suffer, yes, but who also find the beauty within the pain. Heroes who, scared and unprepared though they may be, decide to give birth to a beautiful little baby. To give them life. Heroes who, like the superheroes we so admire, fight for life.
Life is hard. It is messy, it is pain-filled, it is confusing. But it is also beautiful. There are times we do not know what is going to happen next. There are times when we do and we dread what the future has to hold. In the midst of life’s trials, whatever they may be, I think we all have the chance to be a hero. Maybe even a superhero.