Insomnia (or, When I Was a Superhero)


Rooftops stretch out across a dark skyline, 

Eyes set, fixed gaze,

I reach out towards the blackness and imagine myself falling,

Deeper still into the unforgiving concrete below.

I hear the sound of a bird, no…a plane,

descending to it’s perch, no…the landing strip.

My eyes snap open and I look down to see the concrete miles below,

And I stare in amazement.

Eyes set, fixed gaze.

Like a bird…no, a plane. 

Enthralled at the wind under his wings. 

Where's Waldo? I found him!

When I was a little boy, I used to tie a golden cape around my neck and run around the neighborhood. Back then, I told everyone that I was “Super Stephen.”

I remember when I first got the cape. Most vividly, I remember the first occasion I wore it. It was Halloween night, and the church I grew up in was having one of those “fall festivals” we Christians are so infamous for (i.e. here, lets have a Halloween party to keep kids off the streets, without actually calling it a Halloween party.)

There was a costume contest that night, and my parents picked out an awesome  Roman Soldier costume, complete with breastplate (of righteousness) helmet (of salvation) shield (of faith) belt (of truth) and sword (of the spirit.) Don’t ask me how those things tie in with a Roman Soldier in the sociopolitical context of Biblical Jerusalem because I don’t know. But we were supposed to dress as biblical characters, and being the son of the associate pastor, I knew every spiritual thing I was supposed to recite. The cape came with the costume and out of all of the pieces of spiritual armor with awesome metaphors attached to them, I preferred the cape…though scripture says nothing about a shiny gold cape.

I went up to the judges of the contest and proudly announced to the church body that I was dressed as a “Romean Soldier.” (They all thought my mispronunciation was adorable.) And I won first prize (even over the kid who was dressed like the preacher.) Needless to say, it was a good Halloween Party…erm, Fall Festival.

Since that night, I made it a point to wear my cape every day. So much so that for years and years, my mailman took to calling me “super stephen.” I think he called me that until I was 16 (when we got a new mailman.)

I wore that cape every day for about a year or so. I loved that cape. It meant the world to me, and it gave me a sense of identity. When I wore it, I felt invincible, like a true super hero.

And eventually I grew out of it. My childlike pride that had some sense of purity in it transformed into the type of pride that is destructive. It turns innocence away and replaces it with self-obsession. Feeling invincible is cute when you’re 5 years old, but then you grow up and God shows you just how invincible you aren’t.

I guess my point in writing this is because I’ve thought a lot about myself lately. About what needs to change. And it is, as it has been for a while, where I put my hope. What is my current security blanket? What do I wear (metaphorical or not) to ascribe worth and identity to myself?

I’ve wasted much of my life on myself. I have believed that I had strength in and of myself, and ignored the source of all strength.

I firmly believe, more than I believe anything, that Jesus Christ is the only true source of joy…and it is in him that we find strength. We are not invincible, but because of his mercy, we can be eternal. When my joy is wrapped up in myself, it is fruitless and I lose it all. But Christ is my joy. He is my strength. I am not super stephen because of a cape I wore as a child, but I am because my redemption is in Jesus, the only superhero that matters.

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”-1 Corinthians 13:11-12

What do you trust in? What do you “wear” that gives you your identity? 


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