Ordinary Superheroes

You can’t throw a piece of popcorn anymore and not hit a superhero movie. One or two of them are even good. Most of them are not (I’m looking at you, Amazing Superman, all volumes). Almost all of them involve a person or persons with one or more superhuman capabilities, who can consequently do extraordinary things.

I’m more interested in ordinary people who do extraordinary things.

The Invincibles

The husband of this couple went in for “simple” gall bladder surgery several years ago, developed pancreatitis and a host of other complications, and has spent the intervening years in and out of hospitals, with and without PICC lines, feeding tubes, and having at least one very near death experience. They’ve almost single-handedly paid for a new wing at at least one hospital, maybe two. (Well, technically, their insurance company has, and let’s just pause a moment and say praise the Lord for insurance.) He has experienced more medical issues in a month (pretty much any month in the last six or seven years) than any six of us have had in our entire lives. His wife has blogged through most of it, and really should collect it all into a book some day, because it would be a really good one.

Through it all, they have been, as their name implies, invincible. They have not given up. They have not (publicly) complained. They have continued to move forward in circumstances that would have crippled me years ago. They have mirrored Job’s “shall we accept good from God and not accept adversity?” to everyone around them. They have been the picture of grace throughout their circumstances. I want to be like them when I grow up.

Superdad

When I met this couple, their new daughter was barely a year old, and they had just begun the journey of finding out why she was having massive seizures. The answers involved lots of doctors and even more big words that I don’t understand, but the results are that today they have a five-year old girl in a thirty-year old’s body. The journey has been long and hard. It has involved meetings and discussions and a prescription of doctors (well, that’s what I would call a group of doctors if I got to do the naming) and a host of challenges that you and I literally can’t imagine. But it’s also involved a lot of joy. And laughter. And love. The dad has exhibited all of those things and more. He is patient — most parents only have to endure Barney for a few months, he’s had twenty-plus years. He is attentive. He is kind, all the time. He loves his daughter. I’ve probably told someone at least once or twice a year for all of the twenty-nine years I’ve known them that I cannot imagine God picking a better dad for her than the one she has.

Unbreakable

I met our next superhero on a mission trip in 2009. A couple of years ago, he started experiencing pain in his shoulder. It eventually spread, and a whole bunch of doctors later, he had neck surgery that was supposedly going to make it all better. It didn’t. He’s in constant pain; it hurts when he stands, when he sits, when he … is horizontal (I’m one of those that can’t remember whether it’s “lies” or “lays” and I didn’t feel like looking up). It’s impacted every area of his life — work, home, playing with his kids, etc.Recently, I started him more regularly at church (it has been difficult for him to come and sit that long). On some good advice from a doctor, he has decided to stretch himself. The pain isn’t any better, really, but he’s doing more. He’s been bowed but not broken.

League of the Ordinary

What all of these have in common is that are are just people. They are people we see every day, and if we didn’t look closely, would never notice. They are just like you and me.

Except they’re not. They live in unbelievable circumstances, and they make it look easy. I’m under no illusions that it is easy — they’ve all had their moments of exhaustion, anger, confusion, and more. They’ve asked all the questions, and gotten (almost) none of the answers. They’ve struggled with how they’re going to make it through the day. Maybe even today.

But through it all, they’ve leaned into God instead of away from Him. They’ve searched God’s heart and ultimately their own. They’ve maintained their ability to laugh. They’ve learned to adapt to a new normal and somehow remain … normal. They are ordinary people living extraordinary lives.

They are my superheroes.

(I’ve left them anonymous on purpose. You don’t need to know their names. God has engraved them on the palm of His hand.)

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