I love comic books. I still remember reading new comics on the school bus. I still have my entire collection at home, my all-time favourites being Wolverine, Iron-Man and The Hulk.
These last few years we've seen a landslide of superhero movies come to life on the big screen. I am definitely one of the plebs driving ticket sales at the box office. These classic stories have it all—and despite the fantasy there is always something in these tales to speak to our reality.
Life is a journey full of ups and downs, discoveries and rude little awakenings. We discover our weaknesses, character flaws, sins and mistakes along the way. But more important is the discovery of why we make mistakes, why we hurt others or why we struggle with certain sins: this is one of the hardest parts to face.
Regardless of how uncomfortable these discoveries are we must see them as good things, because they allow us to change. Without them we would continue our self-destructive patterns without knowing any different.
Waking from the Hulk-like state
When scientist Bruce Banner gets angry his gamma-ray radiation-infused cells morph him into a temporary green beast of immense strength—he becomes a gross outer exaggeration of his inner rage.
Only two things can calm the Hulk: time and solitude, or his love, Betty Ross. Even in his most monstrous stages Betty's nurture—her tender gaze, her gentle touch, her softness amidst the rage and carnage—is the only thing that can overcome the beast. She looks past the green monster to the man inside. As the Hulk sees Betty his inner man wakes up and Bruce Banner eventually overcomes the beast. All that is left is a weakened, broken man amid the rubble.
We can be like the Hulk, where we get caught up in a destructive 'state'. It may not always be rage—denial, self-destructive habits, pride, lust, envy or other sins.
We try to escape pain from wounds lodged deep within our souls. Pains as varied and different as the sins we use to cover them up. Just like the Hulk we try to avoid them or destroy them completely, but they are all pointless and self-defeating.
When we wake up from our 'Hulk state' reality hits and we have to pick up the pieces from the bliss of our rage. When we are unaware we are at our most destructive: this is why God desires that our eyes be opened. The Bible says it is God's 'loving kindness' drawing us to repentance. It is not our decision to head in a certain direction—we do that once we are woken up.
Repentance is waking up from our 'Hulk state' to see the hurt and damage we have caused, crying bitter tears of disbelief as to how we could ever cause so much destruction and hurt to others and to God himself, the greatest lover of our souls and someone who has never, ever hurt us.
Discovering God's grace
One of the most painful times in my life was soon after my wife left me. I was totally abandoned by the one who promised me she never would, I was in a reality I neither wanted nor knew how to face.
God showed me many things, but first and foremost he showed me who I really was deep down underneath all the pain. God showed me I was a lost little boy crying out for his father. I was reeling and humbled by this realisation.
I was Bruce Banner waking up from his Hulk state, and boy did I see the destruction around me: how brash I was with my wife, how cold I had been, how selfish I was.
It hit me so hard I proceeded to fall headlong into a bottomless pit of despair. Amid a severe panic attack a friend prayed for me. 'How could I have done that? I thought. 'How could I have been so uncaring?' I said over and over.
My friend reassured me that this wasn't who I was anymore. I knew I hadn't been a monster, but even little wrongs piled up and hit me like a ton of bricks. I then realised the extent of my sin against my friends and family, and the hurt and disappointment I had caused them in times gone by.
I had no excuses left: I was completely undone, and completely guilty. All I could do was to admit my mistakes and beg each person for forgiveness. I would have freely accepted any punishment—it was deserved—but I came to discover how forgiving people are when you are humble and genuinely repentant.
The real purpose of waking up
This is how and why God wakes us up: not to punish us, but to show us our true selves. We begin to see we have hurt God most of all.
When we truly realise this we are first overcome with dread, we have no excuses and are willing to take the punishment for what we have done. At this point God says,
'I know you're guilty. I love you so much that I sent my Son into the world to take the punishment for the wrongdoing and destruction you have caused. The punishment for your misdeeds has been taken care of, I have taken the punishment upon myself—such is my love for you'.
Repentance is waking up! God (our 'Betty Ross') sees us under the layers, looking deep into our souls to remind us of who we really are. We wake up to the point where we realise we have been living a lie—hurting ourselves and hurting others.
The Hulk is eventually able to control his 'beast'. In the end he uses it to battle evil, not cause destruction. Just like the Hulk God frees us from the trap of our pain and sin.
Instead of being forever a monster we are redeemed. We become Avengers, able totake what once caused such destruction and use it to set others free. Instead of being used by the enemy God's love empowers us to overcome the enemy.
"....It was for this very reason that the Son of God appeared, that He might destroy the works of the evil one."
- 1 John chapter 3, verse 8
Tim Everton is a youth worker and part time designer/comic nerd from the beautiful southern coast of South Australia. In his off-time he pursues his artistic passions, the beach and seeking out the next best cafe latte all in equal measure.
Tim Everton's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/tim-everton.html