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Charismatic Characters: The Wounded Hero

(Note from Jack: There are more biblical Magnificent Metaphors to explore, but I want to pivot to a related topic of archetypal characters. Archetypes are simply universal types. Each of us is at once a unique individual and also just like countless other humans as we live out the roles of Father or Mother, Leader or Follower, or in the terms of spiritual types: Sage, Lover, Prophet, Mystic. I would like to explore some of these universal types through scripture since I have found it deepens my experience of living to see how my life reflects the experience of so many others. For the sake of brevity, I’ll mention several biblical examples of each type but then focus on one Old Testament and one New Testament example.)

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me...Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3: 12-14)

Everything seems to start with a story: “Once upon a time...” or “In the beginning...” or “I remember once when...” or “A stranger came to town...”! The foundational story of every culture is the Quest, where a hero or heroine emerges, usually out of obscurity, is called to action, resists the call, consults an advisor, acquires a companion, engages the adversary, is seriously wounded, withdraws, re-engages, defeats the enemy, and returns with the treasure. This plot line fits most dramas. We like movies or novels if the story hits most of these points but with just enough creative twists to make it new again. (And here is the kicker: we all write the story of our own lives in these same terms!) I would love to take every main character in the Bible and walk you through the Hero’s Quest (try it with Abraham or Joseph or Ruth or Esther or David.) I’ll do it here with Moses and Paul (Jesus will get his own devotion at the end of the series.)

Moses emerges out of obscurity, barely saved from death by the cleverness of his Hebrew mother and sister enslaved in Egypt. A man of two cultures, his first call to action is when he sees a fellow Hebrew being beaten by an Egyptian guard, whom he kills. He withdraws as this isn’t the proper course of action. His real call comes dramatically in the desert from a supernatural burning bush. He is called to return to Egypt and free his people. He resists the call with excuse after excuse, but God won’t let him off. He acquires a companion, his brother Aaron, and engages the enemy, the Pharaoh of Egypt. With the guidance and power of God, he frees the people and leads them into the wilderness. There he is rejected by his own followers, who constantly complain about his leadership. Upset by their complaints, God nearly wipes the whole group out. The ungrateful lot are saved by the pleas of their rejected intercessor, who begs God to stay faithful. Moses then retreats to the mountain top facing the might and overwhelming glory of the Lord God alone and emerges with the great treasure of the Hebrew people: the Law. (Exodus 1-20)

We meet Paul in scripture in the background of the stoning of Stephen holding the stoners’ cloaks. He goes off on the wrong path of persecuting the young Christian movement, but then is called to action by a dramatic experience on the road to Damascus, where he is confronted with the voice of Jesus and blinded for three days. He spends years in study and comes back as an evangelist for the Jesus he persecuted. He gathers older advisors like Barnabas and younger companions like Timothy. He suffers unbelievably (read 2 Cor. 11) and is rejected by both traditional Jews and many of the Jewish Christians. He spends all sorts of time in jail, where he uses the enforced leisure to bring forth the earliest treasures of the New Testament, his epistles.

It is not by chance that the story of these brave heroes follows a pattern. All of us at some point are called by God, often hesitate, get advice and companionship, face opposition, suffer, either re-engage or give up, and through our wounds, we are made stronger and heal others. Can you see the biblical pattern of the wounded hero in your own life?

Prayer: Dear Lord, help us hear Your call in the various seasons of our lives. Help us to find the guidance, summon the courage, persevere through the hardships, and bring forth the treasures of your grace.

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