Lessons from Marvel
We are intentional about everything we do in our family. When we first went through the Marvel movies (in chronological order not release date order), we enjoyed the storyline and the opportunity to discuss reality vs. fiction and good vs. bad with new content. Recently, we went through the saga a second time, then added WandaVision and the Falcon and the Winter Soldier to our viewing. The process takes a few weeks, but we love sharing this time as a family and framing the entertainment with life lessons. If you have not watched any of the Marvel movies or series, consider this your potential Spoiler Alert, though, I’ll work hard not to give too much away.
By far, my favorite Avenger is Captain America. We are introduced to a skinny kid named Steve Rogers, with a big heart and desire to serve others by doing the right thing. He refuses to run from bullies and takes a stand for what is right. He has both humility and compassion. Before being given the Super Serum, Dr. Erskine tells him, “Whatever happens, stay who you are, not just a soldier, but a good man.” Dr. Erskine intentionally chose someone with no power, prestige, or status. Having more of anything (power, money, influence) serves only to make a person more of what they already are. Steve is the moral influence of the Avengers, though about halfway through the timeline, he does slip in some ways (specifically his language), proving that “bad company corrupts good morals.”
Madilynn’s favorite character is Captain Marvel. I suspect it has something to do with her independent Girl-Power vibe. Carol Danvers is misplaced and trying to wield her strength through much of the movie. She sees flashes of memory that cause her to question her identity. The search that follows not only reveals her history but sets a course for her future. “I’m kind of done with you telling me what I can’t do,” sums up the turning point for this character. The truth of her past sets her free, setting a course to change the universe.
Stan Lee had a way of diving into issues that impact our world through entertainment. Truth comes out through many of the characters speeches and resonates through current events in a timeless manner. This quote on how and when to compromise is not only relevant at all times, but also vital if we hope to change any of the world’s problems. As a Christian, I believe the downfall occurs when society accepts bad choices as acceptable responses. Isaiah 5:20 says, “What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.” (NLT). Colossians 1:23 warns us to “continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News.”
Division has never been more prevalent in our world – or at the very least, we’ve never been as aware of the divide (thanks to instant access to information and social media). Stan Lee battled the villians of bigotry and discrimination in his comics long before such things were politicized and radicalized. In one interview he said, “for many years, we’ve been trying, in our bumbling way, to illustrate that love is a far greater force, a far greater power than hate.” He managed to share his message of unity with accountability. Criminals were not given excuses for their bad behavior in the Marvel Universe. If they attempted to make excuses, they were quickly told that there is always a choice to rise above your circumstances. As we watched both Black Panther and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, I was impressed at this balance of using obstacles as opportunities to overcome and become better.
The Avengers are relatable because of their flaws. Some do good because it’s the right thing to do (Captain America) while some are trying to outdo previous wrongs (Black Widow). Some deal with Anger (the Hulk), Narcissism (Iron Man and Dr. Strange), devastating grief (Wanda), or simply trying to fit (all of them). Throughout Thor: Dark World, in answer to many “why” questions, Thor answers, “Because that’s what heroes do.” In some conversations this is comical or at the very least simplistic. As the characters develop, you see that real heroes do what is necessary, without seeking the glory.
More than once in the movies, Steve Rogers says (both to his team and the enemy) that “we don’t trade lives.” The emphasis here is that ALL lives have value and importance. Sacrificing one person for another, even in hopes of saving many, was not the first plan. However, even Steve concedes that sometimes losing one person is better than losing a third of the planet. In the world of superheroes, the battle never ends. New threats arise, challenging those who strive for peace. In the real world, we don’t have supervillians, but we do have a constant struggle to live peaceably. Romans 12:17-19 tell us, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”” (Madilynn used this passage in her Bible Reading for Leadership Training for Christ this year.)
The newest release in this Marvel Universe is the Black Widow movie. We haven’t seen it yet, but I did find this quote. Once again, it comes down to choice. Who do you want to be? Whose voice will you follow? One of the last things Moses says to Israel before his death is “Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20). Similarly, one of Joshua’s first statements when he takes up the mantle is “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15). Most importantly, we don’t have to rely on the world to tell us who we are because God declares that we are His. He made a way for us, if only we will accept. Galatians 4:7 proclaims, “So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”
Death and Grief Lessons
“Part of the journey is the end.” Tony Stark tells the Avengers in Endgame. The end is the part we often don’t think about or talk about until it happens. Sometimes it comes suddenly and without warning, like a snap. Perhaps more often than the expected losses.
Each day is a gift, meant to be lived to the fullest. Making the most of the time we have should not be taken lightly. Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day, but not everyone uses their time wisely. In our home, we learn together, work together, and play together – sometimes all in the same activity. We say “I love you” and show affection frequently. We take time to answer even the silliest of questions because we want our kids to feel confident to approach us with any question. We talk about big things, including religion and politics – nothing is off limits. We feel the big emotions and learn to cope. We walk with our grief while we make waves in the lives we touch. Philippians 1:22 says, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Each day in an opportunity to show the love of Christ to those around us. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words when necessary.” Many theologians are credited with saying “Be careful how you live, because you might be the only Bible some people ever read.”
Grief is a constant companion after loss. At first, the grief is loud and painful. Saying the pain subsides isn’t the most accurate description, but it becomes a part of you. Much like an oyster forms a pearl over time, layer by layer, covering an irritant with nacre, our grief becomes a new part of us. Also like that pearl, our grief can add great value to our life, as we persevere. Like a fire refines gold or silver, our trials melt away everything that hinders us. We move forward knowing what matters most and determined to make a difference with each day.