Origin stories. They are not only an expectation, they are practically a rite of passage. If you want to get to the part of the game where your character can execute their coolest moves and demonstrate the abilities you saw and drooled about in all of the game trailers, then you better buckle up for a long ride because the person you will start the game as is rarely that person. They tend to lack all of the powers you associate with them, possess a small and insignificant life bar with an equally empty skill tree, and can scarcely hold their own in a fight with a common street thug when you first get started. We have come to expect that we must slowly BECOME the acrobatic and skilled hero we originally imagined over the course of many hours of learning moves, unlocking attributes, and finding gear. And IF we have persevered, by the end of the game we just MIGHT look like, act like, and fight like the superhero we planned on playing as for the last twenty hours.
After many years of the same pattern in video games, Insomniac Games took the bold move to shoot a string of web and swing right past the expected origin story of Peter Parker and give us a fully capable, combat ready, mature(ish) Spider-Man for their first foray with this license. And it is a move that has been received warmly and enthusiastically across the board, as critics and gamers alike have been reveling in the simple joy of having a ready-made Spider-Man, just add controller. After all, who wants to play out sequences where Peter can’t quite get the grip of shooting webs and destroys everything in his bedroom? (Insert “Goo Gone “product placement here). Or slam into buildings repeatedly as he works on his timing? I think we would all gladly skip past the tedious amount of research needed to formulate his webbing solution. And only the heartless would want to once again fail to reach Uncle Ben in time because we were foolishly exploiting our powers for personal gain.
The truth is origin stories are messy. Painful. Full of mistakes and embarrassing moments that nobody really wants to relive. It is ever so much easier to take on the life of our hero once they have moved past all of the drama, awkwardness, trials and scarring that accompanies the beginning of their journey. It is refreshing to see the hero show up at just the right moment with battle scars across their face because you know this isn’t their first rodeo, but the truth is the story in those scars probably tells a narrative that indicates that their first rodeo went really, REALLY poorly.
In many ways King David might be considered the quint-essential action hero of the Old Testament. I don’t mean to put down the amazing accomplishments of so many other men and women who boldly and heroically carried the torch when their time came, but his story hits all of the beats and between the very fair mix of his exploits and failures captured in the books of 1 and 2 Samuel combined with the deep glimpses into his very soul we find throughout the Psalms, there are simply very few individuals who were so deeply honest about their shortcomings while also fairly capturing their legacy quite like David.
The harsh truth about David is his origin story isn’t all about slaying giants and choosing honor over justice. It’s messy, often bloody, and full of mistakes both obvious as well as less apparent until his story plays all the way out. I would like to follow him as the bold young man who kills bears, lions, and Goliaths, but I’m not so sure about the coward who literally faked mental illness to avoid confrontation (1 Sam 21). I dig the love story between him and his first wife Michal, but as he accumulates additional wives and concubines he seems a little less romantic and a little more of a playboy (2 Sam 3). I love that he follows a code of honor in his stubborn unwillingness to harm Saul, but he allows a man like Joab, his nephew (2 Sam 8), to be his right-hand man and captain of his army in spite of his clear lack of fitness for the position evidenced by how often he contradicted David’s guidance or enabled his poor decisions (Joab murdered Abner, Absalom, Uriah, and was eventually put to death by David’s son Solomon).
The truth is that the origin story of David isn’t much different from yours or mine, it just played out on a larger screen. But it is in those very origin stories that he becomes the man who unites Israel and conquers Jerusalem. Flawed? Absolutely. Morally compromised? Often, unfortunately. In our day and age he would have been massacred on the internet, forced to delete his Twitter, made his Facebook private, and probably been recorded by TMZ on his rooftop scoping out Bathsheba. But without these failures he would not have been able to write the many Psalms that we reach out to in moments of crisis or utilize as prayers when our own words fail us. Your origin story is likely just as messy… I know mine certainly is. And I would never have chosen my path and the mistakes I made to bring me to the place I am now, and I regret every one of those poor choices as much as any of us ever could. But please listen to me carefully here… our individual origin story is ESSENTIAL to the path we are meant to walk, even if the decisions made had negative repercussions. It doesn’t make them good or right, but they were still a required component of the path necessary to reach your destination.
Every choice Peter Parker made, good or bad, led him to become the Spider-Man we are all playing as right now (if you have a PS4 and a legally obtained copy of Spider-Man, that is). And while it is awesome to get to suit up as this seasoned and capable Spider-Man, we don’t truly get to start out that way in life. Nobody does. It is through the mis-steps, the accidents, and even the brazen failures that we learn to be the hero that someone else will need. Whether you wear your battle scars physically or buried deep in a place no one else can see, it is your origin story that will be what connects you to someone else in need. Don’t be ashamed from it, hide from it, or run from it… simply be the person who lived it, survived, and is here to fight another day.
Embrace the Spider-Man you are now even if the path you took to get here was not optimal. You cannot undo the past anymore than Peter can bring back Uncle Ben. But what you CAN do is start using your powers for God’s glory. You can stand up for those who are in need. You can empathize with those who have failed and point them back on the path. You can stop regretting how you got here and start figuring out what you are supposed to be DOING here. That bite that should have been fatal may have been what placed you on the path of your true destiny.