Warts & All

marvelI love reading comics. From third grade on, I regularly visited comic book stores. It was a special treat to go once a month or so with my dad to the comic book store to look at the new comics and bring them home, all crisp and new. And it was an even more special treat when I was allowed to buy a back issue, all in the bag and cardboard. I remember frantically trying to collect all the issues I could of all the X-Men comics and cross overs for the Fall of the Mutants story arc.

I loved the Marvel comics, but I just never could get into DC. DC was just a bit too saccharin for me. All the good guys were good and all the bad guys were bad. The only person with any issues was Batman and he didn’t really have any powers, just a lot of money and free time.

On the other hand, Marvel had awesome characters. Wolverine smoked, called people bub, and had no problem shinking out his claws and talking about how they’re adamantium and can cut through anything. Scott Summers had commitment issues. Rouge was always unable to fully interact and have true human contact. The Beast struggled with intelligence versus brawn (during the Fall of the Mutants, he wasn’t blue anymore and he was given a virus that the more he used his strength, the dumber he became, and he was a doctor and genius to boot). You have Captain America, a person with a strong sense of morals, values, honor, struggling to keep integrity in a messed up world. The heroes were just as messed up as the villains and that fine line between the two sometimes blurred. Morality was discussed, struggled with, and tried to be held in a universe that was real and flawed like me.

Of course, my 9 year-old self didn’t realize that at the time, but that’s what I was seeing. Life isn’t always fair. Heroes shouldn’t be put on a pedestal, and we’re all messed up.

I continued reading comics all the way up until seminary. And then I was gently told that I needed to be more mature. I took that as I shouldn’t read comic books anymore and instead read hoity-toity books and maybe the Wall Street Journal. A whole decade passed until I realized that being mature didn’t mean I couldn’t still read comics. And so I entered back into the world of Marvel.

I missed so much.

The heroes became more flawed. They struggled with what was truly right and wrong. They struggled with how far they should go before they become the same as the villains they are fighting. And they struggled with the fact that those they were trying to serve didn’t always want to be served in the first place. Pain. Fear. Friendships. Honor. Valor. Morality. All important. All examined. All discussed.

I look at my own life. I’m messed up. I ain’t right in the head. I’ll be the first to tell you that. I. Am. Flawed. And yet I strive to serve. A little while back, I looked at what it meant to be a flawed servant in this world (you can read that post here). And it’s tough.

I look at my life and see my warts. I see my shortcomings. I see my failures. I see where I’ve messed up. And it ain’t pretty. People who knew me in high school were shocked when they first friended me on Facebook to learn that I was now a pastor. Me. The messed up kid in high school is not a “man of God” as some called me.

I find it interesting, that the prophet Jeremiah also saw himself flawed. So did Moses. As did Isaiah. As did many others.

In Exodus, after God spoke to Moses in the burning bush, showed Moses signs and wonders of His power, and then calls Moses to set the Israelites free by confronting Pharaoh, Moses replies with excuses. God meets each one. Then Moses says:

Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” Exodus 4:13

He still felt flawed and unable to do what he was called to do even after God showed him power, mighty, and signs and wonders.

The prophet Jeremiah was called by God to speak to the nations. Jeremiah responded

Alas, Sovereign Lord…I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” Jeremiah 1:6

Moses and Jeremiah saw themselves as flawed. And so do we.

qualfiedTo be honest, the Bible is filled with flawed people. Noah was a drunk; Abraham was a liar; Jacob was a shyster and cheat; Moses and his brother Aaron blatantly disobeyed God in anger; Gideon not only was a scardey cat but eventually led the people astray; Samson was a lush and a womanizer; David was an adulterer and murderer; Elisha had a couple of kids mauled by a bear just for calling him “baldy.” Then there’s Simon the Zealot, one of the 12 disciples who was a revolutionary and rebel against Rome; Levi/Matthew and Zacchaeus were both tax collectors who cheated people out of money; Paul had people killed. And God used each one of them for His glory.

And each one of us is flawed too. And God uses us for His glory as well.

The heroes of the Marvel comics are flawed people. They are messed up people. They are people who struggle with power, responsibility, morality, valor, honor, the difference between what’s right and wrong. They aren’t perfect yet they still serve.

We aren’t perfect. We have warts. And God calls us warts and all. He calls us warts and all to serve, not for ourselves, but for His glory. Not to show that we can accomplish something, but that God can accomplish something despite ourseleves. We are weak. He is strong.

Paul speaks of his struggles and weaknesses in 2 Corinthians. He is weak. He struggles. How can he truly serve in his weakness? Jesus answers

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Paul responds to this by saying

I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power ay rest on me…for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

You may not think you’re qualified to serve God. You may see your warts and think you’re disqualified. God calls you to serve, warts in all. He doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.

So, be used by God, warts and all. Allow your weaknesses, flaws, and warts to be used for God’s glory. For when you are weak, then you are strong. And then you can serve God fully.

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