MegaCon 2019 and the Art of Cosplay: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made (Psalm 139)

We just attended the 2019 Orlando MegaCon, and if you have not had the pleasure of frequenting this or a similar convention event, you are missing out on a truly unique experience.  In so many ways the world of gaming is inspired by the art, stories, characters, and tropes from the multiverse of comic books.  To tell you the truth, most gaming developers owe a massive debt to the source of all that is truly good and nerdy in the world… the original place where these larger-than-life heroes pummeled enemies,  saved universes, and became the best versions of themselves in the process.  And with all the amazing sights and sounds within the convention halls it is easy to lose yourself in the creativity and imagination on display… and not just from the massive dioramas, exhibits, and panel discussions.  The most unique and interesting portion of this and many conventions similar to this one are the attendees themselves… The COSPLAY artists.

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For the uninitiated, many of the attendees to these events come dressed up as their favorite characters from video games, comics, TV and movies in a form that has come to be known as “cosplay”.  There is just such an amazing energy that exists from being surrounded by people who are fully in their element and celebrating their various passions, whether it is something mainstream such as the cinematic Marvel and Star Wars characters we saw or the unique and impeccably detailed Monty Python and the Holy Grail characters we had the fortune of bumping into.   I wish I could have asked them if they used an African swallow to carry the coconuts to Orlando.  They aren’t migratory birds, after all.

I know for many of us it is easy to dismiss this as a group of adults playing dress up and unfortunately failing to recognize the artfulness and ingenuity that is on display here.  But after sitting and watching people pay hundreds of dollars for new character “skins” for Fortnite or grinding for hundreds and hundreds of hours for alternate cosmetic content to place on their gaming avatar in so many other titles… the truth is that all of us who are connected to this bountiful world of video gaming are doing the exact same thing in a digital format that these brave and creative souls are building physically.

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It is easy to dismiss this as a waste of time and wonder what else they could have been doing with themselves while they were carefully stitching each and every detail into their costume of choice.  To do so would be to completely miss the point of what each cosplay artist is creating… a living work of art that they happen to be carrying on their person.  I doubt too many people walked up to Leonardo Da Vinci and said, “Man, you are wasting your time.  If I wanted to look at a bowl of fruit, I would just go look at one.  They aren’t exactly hard to find.  There’s like two of them right over there.”  For years I failed to understand the meaning of the canvas that a cosplayer was working with.  So much money and time being put into a costume that may only be worn a handful of times… what is the purpose?  And after exploring this in the Bible, I believe I have found an answer.

Most of us spend our lives searching for meaning on this third rock from the sun, but the largest issue we tend to struggle with isn’t necessarily just finding our place in this world.  No, it runs much deeper than that.  It is that eternal question that haunts us… challenges us through each and every decision we make, keeps us up at night and unsettled during the day;  Who am I?  Libraries of books exist to help us “find ourselves”.  Truly, finding yourself is one of the fastest growing realms of self-help these days.  But if we don’t truly know who we are, who else possibly could?  We lash out at our parents because they MADE us but don’t actually UNDERSTAND us…  we raise our fist at heaven as we challenge God on how a good and loving Creator would craft us into what we are.  And we live these unsettled lives and try to find the happy place between accepting who we are and yet feeling the burden of something much greater pressing underneath our skin, coursing through our bones, begging to be unleashed.

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I truly believe this is what causes all of these fictional characters in our games, movies, and other forms of entertainment to have such a draw to us.  They are living these big, exciting lives and fulfilling these massive destinies in a way we long for and dream of, but can never touch.  While Captain America faces down Thanos and his entire army, we change the motor oil in our car.  When Green Arrow is bearing the burden of his city on his shoulders, we try to carry in all the groceries in one trip without dropping anything.  We live vicariously through the stories of these character’s heroic acts, and these cosplay artists take it one step further by inhabiting their characters through the most authentic replicas they can build or create.

In truth, the cosplay artist is the most honest person in the room.  They are giving birth to their desire to externally replicate what they possess internally.  While your passion may not reveal itself in this exact manner, throughout our lives we tend to have a passionate soul buried deep within this pile of flesh that is not being recognized for what it truly is… the very image of God Himself.  Society has convinced us that we are not perfect enough in our native form because there is simply no way for them to monetize CONTENTMENT.  In order to keep the economy rolling, we are overrun by advertisements that say we need this makeup to look more flawless, this tanning spray to look healthier, this hair color to look more natural, these clothes to hide that we are too skinny, too fat, too tall, too short… it is a never ending chase to put the most effective image of ourselves forward so we can look on the outside like what we feel like in the deepest parts of our hearts.

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I could put the entire chapter of Psalm 139 here, and I would highly encourage you to read it.  But I would like to point out a few of the most exciting parts to me…

Psalm 139:13-18:

For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You.

Let’s break this down for a second.  We were individually hand-crafted by a loving Creator who knew exactly how many days we would have on this earth and how we would spend each and every one of them.  We are loved and thought of by God more than we have the capability to comprehend.  What we may consider “flaws” are actually subtle nuances made by a designer who knew exactly what He was doing.  The reason we struggle is not because we were made incorrectly or improperly, but because we often live our lives in denial of what we were made FOR.

When the legalistic Pharisee Nicodemus came to Jesus in the middle of the night for a way to understand and solve this conundrum in John chapter 3, Jesus had a simple yet profound answer for him that still causes people to scratch their heads to this day.  A new birth.  And it is not as complicated as we have been led to believe.  In fact, cosplayers figured this out a long time ago.  Let’s look at Christ’s response and dissect it…

John 3:3-8  Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”  Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Jesus is explaining that we have all been born of water, meaning our natural birth.  He makes that clear in his next statement when He says that which is born of flesh is flesh.  But not everyone has been born of the Spirit, which if using the childbirth example he is demonstrating means we exist as spiritual beings but have not been actually “born”.  We are still waiting for a push to exist in the fullness of what we were meant to be.  We have that feeling of discontentment because of the Divine spark that has been placed into our very spirit that is anxiously waiting to escape and come to life.

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In childbirth terms, the womb is not the baby, it is simply where the baby is being housed until it is born.  Likewise, your fleshly shell is just a structure housing the real you, the one who is anxious to get out into the real world and achieve it’s full potential.  It is not as safe outside of the womb as it is inside… that is where hurt, pain, and disappointment live and dwell.  Similarly, to live your life out loud as the spiritual beings that we truly are on the inside is not safe.  Like the cosplayers I observed at the MegaCon convention, cruel and misinformed people may point and laugh even though they lack the courage to do what you are doing.  People may misinterpret your passion as you reveal the truest version of yourself.  That is the risk one takes when choosing to stop hiding the real you that has been buried deep behind the facade.  But when you choose to experience the reality of being born again and allowing God to unlock your full capacity as the perfect creation He formed you as, there is truly nothing like it.

If you have never experienced being “born again”, I am going to ask you as kindly as I can… What are you waiting for?  Your spirit… your truest self… is chomping at the bit waiting to be reconnected to the mainframe.  Only in the hands of your Creator can you finally unlock your full potential as your capability meets your purpose.  And for those who have already experienced the new birth I will gently challenge you as well… are you living your life out loud?  Is your true spiritual self on the outside, apparent to all who see you like the cosplayers we met in the exhibition halls?  Or is it hidden from view because of the fear of rejection or mockery that you may endure?  I would like to encourage you to cover whatever physical or emotional scars you have and lay down any burdens of guilt from your past that you are carrying and allow God’s perfect presence to be what shines through you.  You have been perfectly, wonderfully made from the inside out… skillfully crafted in the most intricate ways.  Every detail about you was built for you to fulfill YOUR personal hero’s journey.  Let your true, born again, spiritual self come to the forefront.  It’s what you were designed for.

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