When I was a child there was a movie that made the circuit called Hercules Unchained. It was weeks before the movie actually showed in our neighborhood that we kids were already reliving the legend. Everybody, at every possible instance, wanted to be Hercules. Hercules was a hero. I don’t think I knew much about the historical legend of Herc., but we majored in the outer appearance back then.
One legendary story about Hercules was when he was a child. He was the offspring of Zeus and a mortal woman. Zeus’s queen Hera was jealous of Hercules; after all, he was the son of the other woman. When Hercules was still a baby, Hera sent two snakes to kill him in his crib. When Hercules was discovered, he was prattling in his crib with baby talk and a strangled snake in each hand.
Hercules was strong. He put the enemy in his place. As far as his bodily appearance was concerned, in his mature state, he was ripped, buff, you know what I mean? In fact the way I remember him, he was even borderline wild. I can’t remember if he stood for anything principled, or if every battle was just another validation of self. But everybody, in their imaginary world wanted to be Hercules; even me.
Now everyone could look at me and see I was no Hercules. I have always been thin, and even a bit frail; actually downright skinny. People used to tell me to not turn sideways or I would disappear. I was also informed that I didn’t need an umbrella when it rained because I could walk between the drops. Even today, I am somewhat slender at 6 ft 4 inches tall and 197 (trying to get to 195, by the way). But can you imagine a skinny kid talking about, “I’m Hercules?” What a ridiculous picture.
Somewhere on life’s journey, my values changed and I realized that big and strong physically, did not necessarily make for hero material. If being a hero is being a champion, a conqueror, then what is conquered is what determines the validity of the hero. A man who steps on an ant is not a hero. A 150 lb boy who beats a 75 lb boy is not a hero. But let’s be sure of one thing; there is much about life that needs to be conquered and a hero then will emerge from the struggle as a champion.
In this life there are more than human enemies, there are circumstances and events, illnesses and handicaps that attack and buffet the human spirit. It takes a true champion, a hero if you please, to come out on top.
God has two basic opinions of mankind. 1) Is that we’re all sinners. Ro. 3:23 “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God…” Without God we lose the battle against sin. But then 2) He says that through Christ we’re conquerors (heroes). Ro. 8: 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. Prior to that last verse, it gave a tremendous list of things that can take a person out. Things like: tribulation (pressure), distress (difficulties), persecution or peril (dangers). It takes a conqueror (hero), or like the Bible said, “…more than a conqueror” (more than a hero) through the power of God to maintain through the onslaught of life’s detractors.
There was a young man in my church named Teddy Porter. From what I know he was born with a condition known as spinal bifida. Spinal bifida includes incomplete development of the spinal cord. There are two types, one is mild the other more severe type causes an accumulation of fluid in and around the brain. Not only was Teddy born with this more sever type, he had multiple complications as he matured.
Teddy was a good-spirited kid, and very tender-hearted. Many times he would be seen crying during a church service. He loved to sing in church and led several choir songs; and all of this from a wheel chair. When I first met Teddy he had both legs, but both were in braces and very hard for him to move and get around on. But it never stopped him. I baptized Teddy and then watched him grow and lose first one leg and then the other; and it still didn’t stop him. One of the happiest days I remember was when he got his motorized wheel chair. This was something, especially since Teddy was a very huge young man. And often I would watch him rejoice in church. Many would have sulked and become embittered. Many would have had daily pity parties, but not Teddy.
Yesterday my 21 year-old hero went to be with God; eventually God takes all heroes. He never strangled a snake, never tore the gates off a city – Samson like, but he conquered the spirit of defeat daily. Though I wish I had Teddy back for one more of those big hugs I used to give him (I also called him Teddy Bear), I know that he’s having a big time on his new legs and it wouldn’t be fair to interrupt his new level of joy. But I, who am left down here in an attempt to conquer a few more things, will always remember my hero.
*This newsletter is a reprint from 2010.