My Favorite Super Powers

Today's UPI column

So There I was...

Walking down the street with my four-year-old daughter. Well, actually, I was walking, she was running ahead – full tilt. I wasn’t worried about her because she was a pretty well trained child, and I knew I could rein her in with my voice. I was just enjoying watching her move like every baby racehorse ever born. As she approached the corner I called out “That’s about far enough, honey.” She started her deceleration. Then she turned around, tiny hands on tiny hips and eyes of blue flame surrounded by sunburst of yellow hair. She was clearly a little put out with me.

“Mommy, there is something I have to tell you.”
“Ok, baby, what?”
“Someday, when I am running like that, I am just going to take off and start flying.”
“I thought you might be scared – so I am telling you.”
“Thanks, hon, you’re right, that might scare me.”
“I’ll be just fine, but if I am flying, I might not come back when you call.”
“Thanks for the warning. You would come back eventually, wouldn’t you?”
“Yes – I’ll always come home for lunch.”
“Great to know that – you gonna let me hold your hand to cross the street?”

I thought about this last week when I caught an episode of the new TV series “Heroes.” It is the story of a group of regular people who suddenly discover that they have superpowers. A guy in Japan finds that he can stop time. A cheerleader finds out that she is indestructible. Another fellow discovers that both he and his brother can fly. The newly minted marvels don’t know each other. They all think that they are unique. I don’t know what they are going to do with this yet. Save the planet, I presume.

What an amazingly old story this is. Hercules old. Moses old. Buddha old. Shaolin, Shaman old. It is also new. Jedi new, Matrix new. I cannot think of a culture in which there is not a story line of mixed god/humans, or humans who attain a superhuman level of enlightenment and skills that go with it. The crux of the story is always what they do with the powers – save themselves, save the planet, or seduction and self-appropriation of the power to the destruction of themselves and others. Mr. Jung would have called the story archetypal, meaning hardwired into the human mind. I think it is so universal that it must be true. God has put into us a truth so strong that every four year old believes it. And even after we crush the literal possibility out of the minds of our children, it is a truth so strong that it oozes out of our consciousness every time we tell a tale.

We are meant to be so much more than we are.

John the beloved disciple, John of Patmos, writing a letter: {italic}Beloved, we are even here and now God's children; it is not yet disclosed or made clear what we shall be, but we know that when He is manifested, we shall resemble and be like Him, for we shall see Him just as He really is (1 John 3:2).{/italic}

We have gotten immune to hearing “Everyone is a child of God”, blah blah, metaphor, blah. John’s ancient readers would not have heard it that way. They would have heard “Right now, you are Xena, you are Hercules, what you are going to become can’t even be described but will make those two look like sissies.”

I have come to believe that this is true, that we are supposed to be superheroes. I have come to know this experientially. I am going to tell you about my top five favorite superpowers. You will probably dismiss this because it doesn’t involve capes and tights, and leaping tall buildings. You will say, “I don’t want cheesy metaphorical powers, I want a light saber, I want bullets to bounce off my chest.” But I say to you, the light saber is the metaphor. These powers are real, they are available, and if you surrender to the Divine you will get your own set, and when you discipline yourself and learn their use, your life will be transformed.

Power #1

I have become frequently impervious to insult and offense. This was the first power that I discovered and so named. I was shown that just because someone is offensive, it does not mean that I have to be offended. I can choose, and offense is so rarely a good choice. Offense is a huge waster of time and emotional energy. I have much better uses for my time.

Power #2

I can forgive those who actually hurt me - the ones who do it accidentally and the ones who do it rather intentionally. This power breaks chains of bondage. It crushes walls of isolation. It allows me to move through regions that otherwise I would have banished myself from. It erases enemies. It short-circuits revenge. It stops wars.
You need to see this work? Ask the Amish – ‘nuff said.

Power #3

I have started to have what I call Quixotic vision. Like the old Don from La Mancha I have started to see people as God sees them. This is amazing. Some of the human trash of our society, the ones we warehouse, or worse, abandon to the streets are beautiful and saintly. Some of the most physically beautiful, smart and powerful, are actually wizened, shrunken and deformed in their souls. The scariest part of this power is looking in the mirror.

Power #4

I can travel through time. Not kidding here. I am connected to a supernatural being that exists completely outside of time. Through that One, I can communicate and work in other places and times. So far, this is mostly through the work of prayer. I have prayed for my grandparents, I pray for my grandchildren who are not yet conceived. When I work with a person who was damaged as a child, I pray for the child they were, sending them strength and hope to arrive at the day of their healing. I pray for my own death. I believe that the universe changes when I pray. Not always the way I want it to change, but it changes.

Power #5

I am becoming hyper-resilient. One of my favorite story heroes is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. One of the cool things about Buffy is that she takes her hits but she heals fast. A good night’s sleep after the worst day fighting evil, and she is back at it again. Me too. If I take care of myself; sleep good, eat right, escape to my fortress of solitude every so often, I do not run out of energy or hope. If I disconnect from my Divine power source through will or inattention, I fail. If I ignore my spiritual disciplines of restoration, I might as well have a back pocket full of Kryptonite. I wilt. I whimper. I lose all my other powers. I screw up. I die.

So there you have it. I am “out” as a superhero. Deal.

But I leave you with another lesson from Buffy. At the series finale, Buffy and her friends defeat the ultimate evil by finding a way to break the Buffy-world rule that “once to every generation there comes a slayer.” They elevate every potential slayer to full force, all at once. They kick evil butt. They unlock this truth – we are ALL supposed to be superheroes. There are infinite powers. There are infinite skill sets. Evil doesn’t stand a chance.

Let’s go save the planet.
It’s still OK to hold hands when you cross the street.

Absolutely love this one. Thank you tons.
I can't believe I am so lucky as to have an editor at United Press International who lets me have sentences like
"Blah, blah, metaphor, blah."
How great is that?

Speaking of UPI - they have issued me actual press creds for my trip to Africa this winter. They say "freelance journalist on assignment for UPI"

I love my life.
Press creds for your trip to Africa, "on assignment"?!

WoW. You go, girl.

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up
Spiritual powers seem able to at once isolate us, and connect us. They perhaps enable us to more deeply connect with others and listen and speak to their conditions. They also make us different, 'super', and so more separate.

For Buffy this sometimes seemed like a cross to bear, but one that she still wouldn't willingly put down given the choice.

I feel like I've only just begun to make sense of this, and I look forward to learning more from you.
It's so good to have thee put these things into words. I have known that the Lord was working mightily with me the last few years. Details aside, I've been placed in situations that I would never have chosen for myself.

It is here that I've seen the powers thee describes develop within me. The phrase, "we battle not against flesh and blood" returns to me time and again.

Another powerful posting, Peggy -- thanks!

But a voice in me cautions. There is danger in envisioning oneself as a superhero. Icarus's wings melted when he flew too close to the sun. Many religious leaders who have tapped into this spiritual power eventually came to see themselves as demigods, doing great harm.

I think of the Muslim man I read about recently who believed that his faith was strong enough that God would protect him if he walked into a lion's den. He died terribly, one can only hope quickly as well, while people who loved him watched in horror.

Yes, we can access these super powers, but not without humility, humanness, and simplicity. Otherwise, the risks are high.

There are lions in Africa.
yes, but where does the dharma initiative fit into all this?
Thanks for all the great comments. Responding has not claimed much of my time leately, but a read and think about all of them.
some brief responses.

Julian (who I wish I knew more about) is apparently a fellow fan of the Slayer - BTVS - is in my opinion the most theologically sophisticated television series ever written. Backtrack and find Julians post on Willow. It is a good one. I think there is a ceratin lonliness in surrendering to God and being transformed, community is found, to be sure, but it heightens the sense of being an alien and a wayfaring stranger ion this world.

Raye - I want to do some more writing about the battle. Tomorrow's Column may interest you.

nancy - you are going to get your own response here in a few minutes. I need to get into PJ's and make a warm cup of milk first.
ok - these posts maybe going up long past the point that anyone is looking back - but I am writing them for the sake of follow through.
ok - nancy - Thank- you - really.
I always like to hear from the voice of caution - I often ignore that voice, but I always give it a thought before I do.

Mixing metaphors and stories as I love to do, has some real scholastic problems, Buffy and Xena were on the same TV channel for a while, but that doesn't make the mythology interchangeable. So I am aware that things can get stretched, but I want to respond to the Icarus thing.

Icarus' wings were maid by his Dad, human effort, human direction, fallable materials and workmanship. Icarus and his hubris Got too close to a jealous and vengeful God and melted and fell.
Hubris is a major theme of Greek stories.

Lord knows that I can have a pocketful of hubris as much as the next guy. But there are a few serious things to note about the powers that I am describing.

They are God made and planted in the human.

The process of transformation while messy, is God's work.

There is nothing unique about these powers - they are available to everyone.

My use of them, and the transformation that happens when I use them is to be sure spotty, but I have God's support and encouragement in this process.

My God built my wings, gave them to me, teaches me how to use them, snatches me up when I fall, and wants nothing more than for me to attain heights that bring me into consistant intimacy with God.

No jealous angry slapping hot melty God. I think that John the apostle knew his readers would hear demigod in his words, his point was that the God in the picture is completely different.
It's never too late to respond to a comment - I just last week referred a friend to this post, and now I came back to read it again myself and found the final comments. We don't always know to whom or for whom we minister - in meeting or via blog. It's still good to follow through whenever possible.
Wow. Just browsing for stuff and came upon your ultimate awesome post. Personable, insightful, relevant, interesting and God full.
Very sweet.
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