It's a Bird! It's a Plane! No, it's a Human!!!
I think we are all a little fascinated with the idea of a superhero. As kids we would debate the strengths of each of them and argue about who would win in different types of situations. I always thought it would be cool to get bitten by a radioactive spider, find a superpill, or maybe get a special watch to give me super powers.
Not all of the superheroes really appealed to me though. Hulk had anger issues and was an emotional mess half the time. Superman is just an illegal alien. And as entertaining as the Iron Man films were I didn't end up liking the character that much.
The fantasy of the superhero certainly captures the imagination and makes for good stories. It's all a fun escape from the very human condition that we all contend with, even our actual heroes. Regular folks are flawed, they don't have all the answers, and everyone has weaknesses. We are very unlike the comic book characters we grew up admiring.
Having been a first responder for so many years I have a particular admiration for the ordinary people who are willing to do the work of heroes. Much of the time the jobs are pretty routine but that routine can be shattered in an instant. It's the nature of the occupations. In talking with combat veterans I find they experience much of the same thing. It's a lot of boredom punctuated with moments of sheer terror.
The discipline of staying with a difficult job over the course of an entire career is what really makes a professional first responder or military service member. But it is in those moments of extremes that they have to be their best. And it is in those moments of extremes that they are often the most human. That, in my opinion, is what makes a true hero. When someone is willing to stick their neck out and really put themselves on the line despite their own vulnerabilities that is heroic. It is certainly more heroic than someone who is bullet-proof confronting a bad guy.
There has been a lot in the news lately about the flawed and human side of police officers. I find myself increasingly angry about this as I see time after time they are not given fair treatment. By the time an actual investigation into the facts is completed and a fair hearing is held according to rule of law the officer's career is already over. Sadly, in many of these situations the real evidence ends up supporting the officer's actions but nobody wants to hear that. It isn't news. Too many people want the police to be portrayed as racist thugs and they will go to extremes to claim they are that way. It is seldom true but it is always news.
An even more ordinary hero to me is the greatest hero of all. The fact that God would become completely human as the man Jesus is beyond comprehension. He became one with us in every sense of the word to reveal God to us, to demonstrate his genuine love for us, and to make it possible for any of us to be welcomed into his family. He certainly took his fair share of hard knocks and abuse along the way, even surrendering his life in such a brutal and unjust way. Unlike us, he had a choice about all of that. He chose to take it because he wanted us to have a choice, despite our own failings. He wanted us to have hope.
Over the years my heroes have ceased to be the folks with the fancy costumes, capes, and super powers. My heroes are the ordinary folks who sacrificially give of themselves for others. In that regard pretty much anyone can be a hero. Some, like our military and first responders, are particularly good examples of this. The greatest example of all though is the one hero I have come to admire the most. Following Jesus is a tall order that leads to a challenging life and it is all very humbling. Nowhere do my human weaknesses become more apparent than in the presence of deity. Fortunately Jesus became one with us and he knows what it's like. He wasn’t just a bullet-proof visitor from another planet.