Life isn’t always kind. It’s not always fair. From time to time, most of us probably feel like we’ve gotten a raw deal, though some of our deals are rawer than others. Some of my closest friends have struggled with all manner of challenges: Physical disability, rocky family life, just plain bad luck. And yet, they’ve overcome and succeeded in spite of them.
They’re a little like Guardians of the Galaxy in that way.
At Plugged In's blog, I talked a little bit about how our five Guardians in Marvel’s newest megahit kinda remind me of Paul’s famous body parts passage in 2 Corinthians 12, which goes in part like this:
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
And so it is with the Guardians. But there’s more to them than that. They don’t just overcome their own selfish natures to become stronger as a team. They overcome their own hard knocks to inch closer to what, I’d argue, God might’ve had in mind for them all along (if, y’know, they actually existed).
Think about these heroes for the moment. Peter Quill had his mother taken from him and was kidnapped by space pirates in the span of 12 hours. That’s not what I’d call a great familial foundation for a hero. Gamora had it worse: She was adopted by one of the worst people in the entire galaxy—the game guy who killed her original family—and trained to be a fearsome assassin. It’s like Hitler plucking a girl from and turning her into a ninja. Drax watched his whole family die. Rocket the Raccoon is understandably bitter at being the product of a weird genetic experiment. And Groot—well, I don’t know about Groot. Perhaps he had a good home life. But that would explain why he’s so comparatively well-adjusted.
These Guardians didn’t have anything in their backgrounds that would scream “future hero” to you. And yet, they became heroes anyway. This isn’t a Lord of the Rings-like story, where a handful of ordinary hobbits saved the world. This is the story of a handful of extraordinarily scarred, damaged people (or trees or raccoons) that saved a world. No excuses, no pity parties (well, not many). They just saw what needed to be done and did it.
I’ve talked before, and I’ll talk again, about how God can use our weaknesses for His own nifty purposes. But He can work through and past our pain, too, if we let him. If we look at the Bible, we see that theme at work pretty regularly.
Jacob was tricked out of the wife he wanted. Joseph’s own home life was pretty horrible—or at least it was when his brothers sold him into slavery. Moses, a bigwig in Egypt, had to say goodbye to his home and family and life of luxury when he accidentally killed somebody. David was forced to run away from the palace, too. They were all cast out—just as these Marvel vagabonds were. And yet, God had some pretty amazing plans in store for each of them.
There are some preachers who teach that, if we have faith in God, we’ll be safeguarded from sorrow. And there are lots of ordinary believers who seem to believe that God is like a magic shield. I’m guilty of that sometimes. I’ve been very blessed, and when I hit a season of life that seems … well, less-than-blessed … I find myself wondering if there’s been some sort of cosmic mistake. Did I forget to fill out some sort of good-person form or something? Did I land on the naughty list accidentally? What’s with this crud?
The Bible reminds us that God-as-good-luck-charm isn’t really good theology. Yes, the Bible talks about blessings and rewards, too, but we’re explicitly told we will have trouble. We’re shown that we have to persevere and work through difficulty. We can’t give up when life tosses us a couple of curveballs. God still has plans for us. Big plans.
Guardians of the Galaxy shows that concept at work. I see echoes of Jacob and Joseph and Moses in this quirky little adventure. And that even if we’ve been saddled with a whole bushel of lemons in our lives, we can take those lemons and turn them into really eco-friendly air fresheners. Or something.