I don’t recall my exact age, but it was early grade school. For Halloween one year I dressed as Superman. My costume was sweet (or should I say, ‘super.’) My mom crafted a custom red cape. With an engineer’s precision, my dad made a replica of that famous Superman ‘S’ and pinned it to my proud little chest. I wore black boots – the kind that go halfway up your shin, have rusty metal buckles, and should only be worn by men over sixty. Undergirding these accessories was a fuzzy, one-piece, Superman-blue suit – a.k.a. my pajamas – complete with vinyl-coated footies. It was the last time my nighttime apparel had a public showing. Needless to say, my pj’s provided plenty of fodder for ridicule by my “friends.” (It’s OK, mom. I forgive you.)
Years later, super heroes still intrigue me. My interest isn’t so much in their super powers. Sure, I’d love to be able to fly fast enough to spin the world backward, swing through the city on strands of spider silk that squirt from my wrist, and catch beautiful ladies who habitually fall from skyscrapers. What truly heightens my “spidey sense” to super heroes is their obsession with identity.
Bruce Wayne, Peter Parker, Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, Clark Kent. Normal, average guys. Granted, some stand out because of looks, charm, wealth, or quirkiness. Even so, their “normal” is a guise – a ruse intended to hide the truth about their super abilities. A secret identity meant to cloak who they really are.
Lately I’ve discovered that I’m a super hero. No, I haven’t been bitten by a rabid beast or done the backstroke in a radioactive cesspool. But I do have an alter ego – a “secret” identity. Well, maybe it’s not that secretive because it’s who I am most of the time. My “normal.” My Clark Kent. My Peter Parker. My safe place of competent obscurity.
Recent conversations have exposed how I hide within this identity. How I project a quiet, shy, methodical, thorough, detailed persona. Those characteristics are true of me, but they don’t describe the whole of me. Beneath my conservative, button-downed exterior is a suit of brightly colored spandex. And a cape. But I keep that part of me hidden. Dormant, unless summoned. Like a super hero. I’m careful with when and where I use my metaphorical awesomeness.
I’m probing for answers with Spirit-guided X-ray vision. So far, I’m finding more questions, like, “What am I afraid of? Who or what am I trying to protect? Why do I settle? What holds me back? What’s the long term effect of squashing my ‘super’ time after time?” Ugh. I’d rather try to leap a tall building in a single bound.
What I do know is that I’ve been infused with abilities that are valuable (no gamma rays required). We all have. Traits and giftings that give us the potential to be creative and productive. To explore and take risks. To contribute constructively from the uniqueness endowed to us by our Creator.
Still, full engagement with who I am isn’t simple or automatic. The mild-mannered life feels safe. Predictable. Expected. Steady. But always Bruce Wayne and never Batman sells-out the wonderfulness of my inner hero. It’s a selfish hoarding of goodness that God wants expressed for His purpose and glory.
Alter egos and secret identities might play well in the full color frames of comic books. Not so much in real life. A hero that is truly super breaks through protective façades and embraces the fullness of who they are.
Looks like I’ve got work to do. Thankfully, no tights are required.