“Sometimes when Supe was stopping crimes I’ll bet that he was tempted to just quit and turn his back on man, join Tarzan in the forest but he stayed in the city, and kept on changing clothes in dirty old phone booths till his work was through, and nothing to do but go on home. Superman never made any money for saving the world from Solomon Grundy. And sometimes I despair the world will never see another man like him.”
– Superman’s Song, Crash Test Dummies
I was talking with a friend this morning by email. The email mentioned some of the incredible life pressure’s he’s trying to deal with right now; pressures that probably would have crushed me a long time ago, I’m certain. Financial pressures, business pressures, personal pressures, relational pressures, internal pressures — all at the same time. He’s walking a razor’s edge right now and during the course of the conversation, he confessed to me that, though it often feels overwhelming, he keeps trying to “play Superman.” So with a healthy sense of humility and self-awareness, knowing that he can never live up to that role, he asked for prayer — prayer that the real Mr. Super (God) would get him through all of this.
And that got me thinking about Mr. Super.
About just how Super he really is.
I mean, isn’t it amazing that the universe, as vast and incomprehensible as it is — with all of it’s billions of galaxies — could be, for all we know, God’s back yard? Who knows what else is beyond our universe that God hasn’t allowed us to see? Scientists, astrophysicists and mathematicians have come up with countless theories and philosophies to try and understand God, deny God, explain our existence and define the universe.
Now, I’m hardly a scientist, but I understand that we live in three dimensions. Prominent scientists, including the great mind, Einstein himself, consider time the fourth dimension. Thousands of books, television shows and movies have and continue to explore the mystery of time, only to find that it’s a deep, dark, mysterious rabbit hole that seems to elude our best efforts to truly understand it. Now, mathematicians and astrophysicists believe that it’s possible that there may be upwards of 16 dimensions. Wow! Talk about a magical mystery tour! It’s difficult enough to comprehend the 3D world we live in, never mind sixteen dimensions!
The Book says that God is “I Am”. That statement, once again has played with our intellect for millennia. Thousands of great minds have pondered and reflected on the great “I Am”, but for the most part, he’s just beyond our comprehension. The universe is his back yard, the multi-dimensions, his playground. And we’re just little children playing in it.
Isn’t it amazing that Mr. Super keeps the universe in perfect balance and order? That he organizes, administrates and manages all of the “big things” and yet still has time for all of the little things as well. The Book says that God is the author of all that we see, know, understand, comprehend, and intuit and yet is still a friend that never sends us to voice mail, fails to answer email or doesn’t have time for a quick coffee and a chat because he can’t fit us into his ‘burning the candle at both ends calendar’. He notices our tears, feels our pain, empathizes with our difficulties, pressures and challenges.
There’s a story in the Book about a guy named Abram, but I’ll just call him Abe. Abe was promised a son by God; a special son that would carry on Abe’s line. Abe had that little chit-chat with God when he was a much younger man, but where we pick up the story, a lot of water has passed under the bridge and Abe is now an old man; somewhere in his 80’s, if memory serves me correctly. The point? He’s old and he still doesn’t have a son. His wife is old too — well beyond the age of bearing children.
So, one day his wife, Sarah comes along and says,
“Ah, Abe this is all fiddle-faddle. I think we missed it on this one. We’ve been waiting decades for God to give us a son and nothing’s happened. I’m old, you’re old. Let’s just forget it. I just don’t have the energy for this anymore. Why don’t you take my slave girl, Hagar, sleep with her and she’ll provide you with the son that you’ve been promised.”
So, Abe does and Hagar ends up having a son. Unfortunately for all involved, this complicates things a little because the boy, Ishmael, isn’t the son that God had promised Abe. God had specifically said he would give Abe and Sarah a son of their own.
Fast forward a few years. Things are getting tense around the house. Hagar and Sarah aren’t getting along — Sarah’s feeling cheated and Hagar’s acting smug — and so Sarah asks Abe to fire Hagar and send her away. So Abe, being the ever-so-decisive leader, says to Sarah,
“Huh? What? No, no! Don’t get me involved in this. She’s your maid! Do whatever you want with her.”
So Sarah begins to treat Hagar like dirt. After a while, Hagar can’t take it any more and decides to run away, leaving her an unemployed, homeless, single Mom without any family, friends, or possessions. Talk about pressures! Ejected from the lap of luxury into the harsh reality of ‘life on the ‘streets’.
So, one day, she’s on her way to the city of Shur to look for work and she and Ishmael stop for a rest beside a spring in the desert. While she’s there pondering her situation, having a good try and trying to figure out what to do, God shows up. He spends a little time with her, speaks to her, comforts her and helps her to sort through the whole big mess. Hagar, incredulous that the God of the universe would take the time to speak with her, responds to God by saying,
“I can’t believe it! I must be dreaming! I see you! You’re actually here! You’ve seen my predicament! You’re the God who really does see. You see my pain. You see my angst. You see my predicament. You see and know and feel and empathize!!”
And Mr. Super sees our pain as well. He understands our predicament. He knows the pressures we’re under. He empathizes with our ragged emotions, our tangled thoughts, our mixed up ambitions.
Another person in the Book who was familiar with pain was a guy named Job. He summed up his ship-wrecked life something like this: “Everyone, it seems — even my friends — have abandoned me. They’ve scorned and rejected me. God is the only one who hasn’t left me; who really seems to understand my anguish and pain. He’s the only one who’s paid any attention to the constant torrent of tears pouring from eyes. I know he’ll stand with me.” (Check it out in Job. 16.19-21 in The Book)
Job’s God was also the God who Sees. Who hears. Who speaks. Who understands. Who empathizes.
Jesus, who did not turn his back to the collective cry of humanity as we groaned under the weight of our suffering and slavery to sin. Jesus, who did not hesitate to don his earth suit in our time of need— to take up the greatest rescue mission ever recorded in the history of the universe. Jesus, who in becoming one with humanity, became the the Way for us to reclaim our lost divinity as sons and daughters of God and become one with Him.
Mr. Super is so big that he can continue to astound the greatest minds, skipping over planets like they were stones scatter across a creek, surfing multiple dimensions with ease, and knitting sub-atomic matter like my Isle-of-Lewis born Granny used to knit sweaters and yet he’s so personal that he’s always available to talk, to listen, and to meet us right where we are — in whatever situation we’re in.
And Mr. Super doesn’t make any money doing any of this; never makes a red cent saving the world from Solomon Grundy. Never forces his glory upon us. Never takes advantage of our weakness or our ignorance to get his way. Never grumbles that he never gets his due.
Oh, I know He’s been tempted to quit; to give up on all of this crap and turn his back upon us all.
But he didn’t.
And He won’t.
No. He continues incarnating himself in the dirt, filth, confusion, ignorance, wonder and latent, dormant beauty of our ragamuffin lives; loving us, encouraging us, helping us, watching over us, saving us from ourselves and from each other — time after time after time…
Changing his clothes in dirty, old phone booths and doing his work until, one day, the work is done.
'Mr. Super' by Mac MacKenzie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License and originally appeared on Mac's online journal of meditations and reflections for spiritual ragamuffins, 'Among The White Lilies.' Photo credit: Thanks and respect to Flickr user Noone for licensing his work with a Creative Commons license so that I can share it with you.