I’ve experienced a pertinent itch to write lately…Though not really about life, and more about things that are made up, about fantastical things and realistic stories with people who’ve never actually existed, because it’s fun to write about a world outside of your own.
Whenever I think about writing, I think about a day when I sat in the dusty corner of the Pratt Institute library, the second floor, at a wooden table staged with a green reading lamp. It was mid-afternoon, and I’d opened up Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.” I’d recently been taught about the word “archetype,” and how my writing often revolved around steadfast characters, happy endings, war, triumph, love…all of those grand themes that seem almost cliche to the modern writing world, which had grown stale with the bitter taste of cynicism, politics, and self-dependence; one could not say, “I love you,” without the taint of sarcasm, and I was ignorant to believe I could write a hero, without making him fail in the end.
Revelation 19 seared my mind, and a picture of Christ riding in on a white horse, his cape dripping with blood, wielding a sword long enough and sharp enough to face the Armageddon to come was the scene playing out in my heart as I read Campbell’s introduction.
The author briefly traced the footprints of the hero archetype throughout culture and history, and asked the reader, “Why is this the story that we seek to tell over and over again? Where did it come from? How has it become so much a part of our very souls?” There’s Gilgamesh, all of the Greek and Roman gods and demi-gods, Odysseus, almost every single Disney princess story, and so many more.
Campbell proceeded to compare and contrast and draw themes and motifs from hero tales throughout the world, all of which he used to contribute to his psychoanalysis of this existing archetype.
And as I read, I knew. That’s why I’d started following Jesus in the first place…He’s the ultimate, original, hero. Goodness, He certainly rescued me. The hero archetype exists because God prepared the hearts of the nations to long for Him, for His redemption, for His rescue of them from their peril…When it comes to hero tales, we are all damsels in distress, and Jesus is always the hero.
I recently went to Anna’s all-day debate tournament, in which I was a judge for some of the kids competing in the Apologetics category. Each kid would come in, pick one topic out of three, take four minutes to prepare a speech about the topic, and then deliver the speech in six minutes or less. It was pretty intense.
One kid picked the question, “Do all men long for God?” In his speech, he’d mentioned that, just looking at the millions of world religions that exist, there is absolute proof of men longing for God, enough to want to bring Him to themselves. I hadn’t thought of that. It made a lot of sense.
…And yet, He’s already come to them in Jesus Christ! God has made Himself known, and yet we’re still looking for Him…
“…because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19-20)
How do I write this theme into the lives of others? How do I draw them in with what God has given me, and train them in the spiritual discipline of courage, triumph, adventure, and heroism? How do I convince the world around me that their Hero does exist and is not merely legend, that He’s come, and that He’s everything we imagined and more? How do I call up to the top of the tower to the damsel of this earth, ask her to let down her hair, that her Prince may prove to her what He has already done in slaying the dragons of the reality of our sin, the desires of our flesh, and the distractions of this world?
…Do I live like Christ is the Hero? Or am I, as I try to convince others of this truth, denying it with my own self-dependence?
My Hero has come, my dragons have been slayed. I don’t have to live in the tower anymore, and can come down. Don’t worry, He’ll catch me. The night is gone, and the Son shines forth in the dawn.
“For Christ died once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive by the Spirit.” (1 Peter 3:18)