There is an ancient and wise proverb that reads, “Always be yourself, unless you can be Batman. Then always be Batman”. But if I am being honest, being Batman seems like a bit of a mixed bag. Sure, you get some amazing perks like the money, the cool car, the suit full of gadgets, and that whole brooding super-hero gimmick… but this whole “Batman” experience comes with some pretty gnarly side-effects that seem to exist in EVERY incarnation of the caped crusader. And I’m not just referring to the physical and emotional scars that come with the being “Batman”… I’m talking about the incredibly complicated destiny that Bruce Wayne has to live with.
It seems that every variation of the DC multiverse in each form of media allows for an infinite realm of possibilities for every character EXCEPT Bruce… in every game or movie version of Batman we see the same tragedy unfold. His parents are killed, he becomes Batman, and some random clown decides that all of that childhood trauma was not enough and makes it his life’s work to antagonize him. There doesn’t seem to be a version of the multi-verse in which Bruce Wayne simply grows up as a well-adjusted adult, becomes an accountant, runs a youth soccer league, and makes tater tot casserole on Thursdays. No matter who portrays him under the mask, Bruce Wayne ALWAYS ends up becoming the traumatized super-hero we know and love. He always becomes “The Batman”.
One of the more interesting parts of our gaming, cinema, and comic book heroes is that they tend to exist in a “multi-verse” of possibilities, allowing the same character to be portrayed multiple times and interpreted in different ways. We have played as the gritty and battle-hardened Batman in the Arkham gaming series, we have enjoyed the uniquely sublime and over-the-top version of the Caped Crusader from the Lego Batman series, and we have had the fortune of seeing the Dark Knight brought to life on the big screen by multiple actors who each brought a specific part of his broken psyche to the forefront. But in each of these distinctly different takes on the character the multiverse never seems to permit Batman to catch a break. Every path he takes still leads him directly through the valley of the shadow of death and into a dark cave full of bats. And while we may not wear his iconic cape and cowl (mostly because we would get some pretty strange looks at the grocery store), the truth is we may have more in common with the world’s greatest detective than we realize.
All of us endure unique trauma and drama during the course of our lives… experiences that are undesired, may feel unfair, and seem completely unnecessary. And many times, we may perceive these painful origin stories as events that not only negatively impacted our emotional and physical well-being… they redirected the course of our lives in ways that prevented us from achieving our original goals, cost us our dreams, and maybe even prevented us from feeling like a fully functioning member of society. And if you aren’t currently able to see how your particular broken road leads to a Bat-symbol full of hope shining in the sky, you are not alone.
Hebrews 11:23-27 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s command. By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.
Moses may be one of the most iconic figures in the Bible… I mean, he casts an incredibly large shadow. God talking to someone through a burning bush? Moses. The dude holding the Ten Commandments? Also Moses. The whole “Let my people go!” thing? That’s Moses’s face on the T-shirt. But one might be forgiven for skipping through his origin story and jumping straight to the heroic image of Moses parting the Red Sea to save his people and then destroying the entire Egyptian army. At the tender age of only three months old Moses has his first brush with death, being sent down the river in a basket by his family in the hopes that he might survive the murderous purge of a corrupt government official (Exodus 2:1-8). After his miraculous survival he was raised in a life of privilege apart from his biological family… but rather than choosing the luxurious path of a wealthy prince, he decided to get his hands dirty and performed an unrewarded act of vigilante justice.
Exodus 2:11-12 Now it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out to his brethren and looked at their burdens. And he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. So he looked this way and that way, and when he saw no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. And when he went out the second day, behold, two Hebrew men were fighting, and he said to the one who did the wrong, “Why are you striking your companion? Then he said, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you intend to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” So Moses feared and said, “Surely this thing is known!” When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he sought to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh and dwelt in the land of Midian; and he sat down by a well.
Not a great start… Moses was the hero that the people deserved, but not the hero that they wanted or needed right now. Moses silently disappeared into the desert and his story could have easily ended there… but the Lord was not done with him. Moses wasn’t simply destined to save one or two Hebrew people here or there through random acts of violence. He was going to save them ALL. He was going to stand toe-to-toe with an evil overlord, strike fear into the heart of an entire empire, and through this process set every single enslaved citizen of his country FREE. But Moses’s path to this destiny wasn’t going to happen from his comfortable position within the palace… it was going to be born from his personal tragedies and setbacks that would build him into the ONLY person God could use to complete such a critical mission.
We all face darkness in our lives… some more than others. But the bleak circumstances that damaged us and threatened to break us are not the final page of our book… they are simply our origin story. The reality is that the accountant version of Bruce Wayne wouldn’t have ever saved Gotham from anything other than insuring they didn’t miss some very valuable tax rebates. It was through these harrowing ordeals that he learned his place as the silent protector of a group of people who rarely even understand or appreciate his contributions. It was not the path he would have chosen, but in a multiverse in which every outcome is possible each version of Bruce Wayne always endures the tragedies that turn him into Batman… because the world he lives in will ALWAYS need a Batman.
If we are struggling to see the “Bat-symbol” that links our tragedy with our destiny, it is possible we are looking in the wrong direction. Looking backwards only prevents us from moving forward… and looking down only blinds our eyes to the light that is compelling us to lift up our heads and see His purpose shining through the pain we have endured. It is only when the night is at its’ darkest point that we can most clearly see the familiar silhouette of our calling taking shape in the sky… and it is THROUGH these traumatic experiences that the Lord develops us into the beacon of hope that we were designed to be. Our bad choices didn’t sabotage it, and the evil actions of others can’t prevent it… in a multiverse of possibilities our painful path was inevitable. But the calling of God on our lives is UNDENIABLE… it will find us no matter how far we choose to run and hide; it will call us by name from the strangest of places (Exodus 3:1-4), and it will give us a new purpose when we have convinced ourselves that we are no longer useful (Exodus 3:
Numbers 23:19 God is not a man, that He would lie, nor a son of man, that He would change His mind; has He said, and will He not do it? or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
Our path to the place we are currently at may have been full of darkness and tragedy… perhaps more than we thought we were able to bear. We may have made mistakes that we cannot undo, or perhaps we have been dealt an unfair hand by the clowns and villains that populate the evil world we were born into. But the traumas we endure in life either unfairly define us or powerfully refine us… and we choose which of these two occur. We don’t have to allow the darkness that threatened to break us to prevent us from achieving our destiny… we can choose to use our testimony to shine Christ’s light into the heart of the very darkness that our enemy tried to destroy us with. So light that Bat-symbol in the sky and allow the mercy that Christ has given us to reach others who are living in the same dark place… the souls we have been sent to reach aren’t waiting for an unapproachable, invincible Superman to swoop in and save the day. They are looking for someone who has bled on these dark streets, cried on these back alleys, made some mistakes, and lived to tell the tale of Christ’s faithfulness through the darkest of nights. Shine the light of Christ through your past and present darkness… because the Lord is going to use YOU and your unique story to be the message that someone desperately needs.
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