Finding courage like a child

Published 10:44 pm Friday, July 14, 2017

By Dr. Chris Surber

Why do 40-year-old men flock to the movie theaters every time Hollywood releases a new Transformer, X-Men or G.I. Joe movie? When I’m in one of my more cynical moods, I’m convinced it’s just one of many symptoms of the plague of extended adolescence in our culture.

While that may be a contributing factor, I think there is something else happening. I don’t scare easily. I don’t become anxious easily. Yet the longer I trudge through these times, the thinner my armor gets.

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The more politics I absorb, the less trust I have for the institutions of government and society. The more skillful I become, the less I believe in the opinion of the “experts.” I suspect that one of the things about wisdom is learning that even the wise are fallible.

This is a treacherous age, full of fear-generators. I wonder if the draw for men my age toward the superheroes and action heroes of our childhood is, at least in part, a draw toward a simpler way of viewing villains and heroes.

I think Hollywood has tapped into the deepest psychology of my generation.

When I was 7 years old I got recruited into the Marine Corps by the G.I. Joe hero “Leatherneck.” He was tough. He was unafraid. He provided for me a kind of emotional escape from the scary dynamics of my fatherless childhood.

He was everything I wanted in a father and didn’t have. He was everything I wanted to be but feared I lacked the courage to become.

When I grew up, I became Leatherneck. I became a Marine.

When I did, I learned that real superheroes aren’t super tough, they’re super faithful. Real supermen aren’t perfect fathers. They’re fathers that stay. Real X-Men don’t have mutated genes. They discover their unique God-given gifts, and they learn to use them to encourage their wives and strengthen their children.

When I was in the Marine Corps, I trained and served with some of the toughest men on this planet. They couldn’t leap over tall buildings in a single bound, but they had boundless commitment to duty.

They had a child’s view of heroes and villains. They did what was hard, because it was right. They did what was right and became somebody else’s heroes.

Courage is faithful living that is ready to die for what is right, and it takes a childish simplicity to live that way.

Perhaps the way forward is to go back. Remember how simple it was to trust God and believe in superheroes when we were kids? Maybe we can find more wisdom for navigating this crazy world by coming back to a child’s faith.

Jesus’ sentiments in Mark 10:15 sure feel like wisdom. “I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” (NLT)

If God accepts only people with child-like faith, perhaps a child-like simplicity in our approach to the world is exactly what we need.