November 2015 Final Issue
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The Hero & The Sidekick

Imagine the classic movie scene where the hero is dangling from a cliff’s edge. You’ve seen it a hundred times. Fingers straining to find a crack, a niche, anything to cling to. Sweat dripping, the strong, confident visage suddenly overcome with fear and doubt. Slipping, scrambling, praying for a miracle; he now realizes he can’t save himself. All of his past heroics now suddenly in vain. Every previous accomplishment now overshadowed by imminent, inescapable doom. At the last second, the big strong right arm of the valiant sidekick appears from over the edge of the cliff. Hands grasp and a heart-wrenching plea is made. “Don’t let go!” Each and every time, the response is always the same: “I never will.” With agonizing slowness, the rescue is made, and the hero finally drops, gasping and panting at the feet of his rescuer. The gratitude is so overwhelming that it defies words. How do you thank him for saving your life? A shared look, a smile, a nod. That’s all that is needed…in fact, it more than suffices, doesn’t it? And just that quickly, we’re back to the action. Hero and sidekick resume their rightful roles…the hero rushes off to save the day, and the sidekick dutifully stands by with moral support and the perfectly-timed witty remark. Credits roll. The end. If the story went any other way, we’d be furious. Imagine if the hero was left gasping at the cliff side, too broken and battered to continue. We’d be outraged!! Imagine if the sidekick actually had the audacity to say, “Don’t worry partner, I’ll take care of this. You just rest,” and then he goes off to save the day! We’d throw down our movie theater popcorn in disgust, storm out of the building, and later write a scathing 60 character tweet that ended with something like #I'mahero. Here’s the problem. You just watched a scene from your own life, one that’s been replayed more times than you’d care to admit. Permit me to ask you one question. Which character were you? The hero, of course. Then which one was God? Oh. If we’re being honest, don’t we usually relegate God to the role of sidekick? We know the right answer to this question, of course, but don’t we genuinely act like we are the hero of our own story…of THE story? Go back to the cliff scene. We (the hero), after many daring achievements and valiant efforts, are finally in need of rescue. We just can’t do it on our own this time. Our Savior shows up at the most unlikely moment and saves the day in dramatic and impossible fashion. And then what…? We tip our hat, say, “Thanks, partner” and rush headlong back into the fray, fighting and scrapping with every ounce of our strength. Why? Is it because we believe that it’s once again up to us to come through? Is it because we believe that we can’t “waste” the rescue we just received? Is it because we believe He might not save us the next time? Did one of those just strike a chord deep inside of you? Do you know why you believe it? I know that I’ve believed all of those things about my own hero/sidekick relationship with God at one point or another. They sounded true. They sounded right. They sounded…fair. It sounds like the story you’d write for yourself, doesn’t it? Do you know why it’s not? Because it’s the wrong story. Come back to the Garden with me. Come back to the beginning of the story. Did God make man and woman and then stand and wave from the window as they ran off to battle all the evil in the world all by themselves? No! He didn’t make us to be the hero in the story OR the sidekick…at least not in the way we usually think of those roles. That’s not the right story. He created them to be in relationship with Him. He created them to pursue His heart (Deuteronomy 4:29), so that He could pursue theirs (John 10). He created them to share in eternity with Him (Romans 8:17) and to bring glory to the One that can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20). He made us to share in His story, to work through us in ways that only He can, to help us accomplish what only He could do. We’re not the hero. We’re not the sidekick. That’s the wrong story. So why don’t we trust that? Why don’t we trust Him? Why do we feel like we have to do it ourselves? Come back to the Garden one more time. Satan’s chatting with Adam and Eve and pulls off the biggest, boldest, most destructive deception possible. He casually asks, “Did God really say…?” (Genesis 3:1). Translation? “Do you really know Him?” “Can you really trust Him?” “Does He really have your best interests at heart?” “Don’t you need to think through this on your own first?” You know the end to that particular chapter. We elevated ourselves, trusted in our own logic, and reaped the consequences. But we also stopped trusting in what our loving Papa said to us. We became doubtful and suspicious, and we continued to place more faith in ourselves than in the One who made us. So what? This way’s not so bad, right? I get to be the hero; God gets to pull me off the cliff every once in a while. Everyone’s happy, right? Are you? Don’t you secretly yearn for more? Don’t you feel like you’re missing out on something bigger? Don’t you feel like you’re supposed to be part of something larger and more epic? And even as that idea gets close to your heart, do you notice something leaping up to stop it? Doubt? Fear? False humility? Shame? It’s too good to believe, and none of us wants to look the fool. I love King David’s response to this kind of offer. God selects David to be king over all of Israel, and He sends the prophet Samuel to make it official. The promise has been given. But then David has to wait. And wait. Then God lines up the next epic opportunity for David in his very one-sided bout with Goliath. All David had to do was show up and trust…and he did. And then he had to wait. Then Saul was happy. Then Saul went crazy. Then David became the object of a nation-wide manhunt. At no point thus far in this narrative is David actually sitting on his promised throne in Jerusalem. How would I be doing in his shoes? Would I still trust? Armies offer to help David fight to claim what has been promised to him. He declines and continues to wait for God to act. Could I do that? David has the chance to kill Saul on more than one occasion and put an end to all of this waiting. He refuses to act against God’s plan and continues to wait. Could I do that? David does what few of us have the courage and patience to do. He asks, he listens, he waits. “Hear me as I pray, O Lord. Be merciful and answer me! My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming" (Psalm 27:7-8, NLT). Over the last year, God has given several promises to my wife and me. Promises of children, of a new home, of different jobs. We’re still waiting on each and every one of those promises. Each one, once given, has awoken a passion, a desire in us. They’re right. They’re what we were made for, and we hadn’t even known it. They’re good, and they are for our good. Like David, there have been moments where we’ve been tempted to play the hero, to deliver on God’s promise in our own timing. Each time, we hear Him say, “Come and talk with me.” Each time, He’s given us the strength to respond, “Lord, we are coming.” In God’s story, we will all have moments where we feel like we’re clinging to the cliff’s edge, and we’re hoping He’ll reach down to save us. We’ll make that heart-wrenching plea, “Don’t let go!” and every time, He’ll reach down with His strong right arm and say, “I never will.” And He won’t. Ever. He’ll pull us up and rest our feet on solid ground once again. And as we once again feel the urge to rush off, to re-enter the fray, to go and do it on our own, He’ll whisper, “Come and talk with me.” He won’t ever let go. But we can. And we’re tempted to. Do you trust Him?
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About Jon Ackerman

Jon Ackerman
Jon is a Midwestern transplant who now lives in Sterling, Virginia, with his amazing wife Brooke and their three dogs. He has taught world history to high schoolers for the last 10 years, and enjoys filling his spare hours with international travel, reading, hunting, and riding his motorcycle (when it’s working).

One comment

  1. Kathryn Ackerman Baldwin

    Once again, I am in awe of you and so very, very proud! Your journey has been amazing and I’m so excited about what is coming for you and Brooke. Keep going!!!

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