Like many kids, my bedroom walls were adorned with posters of my heroes. Iron Mike Tyson, Dwight Gooden, and Magic Johnson were my American idols. Sadly, each self-destructed in their prime. Magic's unfaithfulness produced consequences forcing him out of basketball. After winning the World Series, Dwight Gooden found himself in a crack house and missing the celebratory parade. Mike Tyson became the youngest heavyweight champion of the world only to find himself in prison a few years later. Eventually, I came to realize that the attributes I idolized in these all-stars weren't those that make true heroes. I wasn't looking deep enough, I was simply admiring performance.
I've told these stories to my sons. I've told real stories of true heroism, often not found on Sportscenter's Top Ten. We've talked about courage, faith, hope, and what matters most in a person.
This political season has afforded much conversation about why people choose to vote for a particular candidate. We've talked a lot about issues and positions. However, a local State Representative summed it up best when he recently visited the school my children attend. My son came home and explained that this representative was talking to his class and said that he couldn't support a particular candidate because he simply didn't see any evidence of the fruits of the Spirit in their life. I realized that, yes, it can be that simple.
In his letter to the ancient church, the Apostle Paul wrote that "when we live God’s way.. He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely" (Galatians 5, The Message). Most commonly, these "fruits" are referred to as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. What if these were the platforms from which we voted? What if these were the measures of success? What if we chose to take the Bible seriously?
The tragic stories of my childhood heroes each later found redemption to some degree. Today each tells a story where every forceful grab for happiness resulted in emptiness and ultimately they found the greatest joy in something bigger than themselves. Attributes like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control aren't typically associated with those that breed success in the boardroom or on the playing field. It's perceived these traits just aren't enough to emerge from the pack and stand out - to get ahead. I wonder if we are really are ok with that? Do we want our heroes, all-stars, and Presidents to downplay the fruits of the Spirits in their lives? Or worse, to be void of them?
I pray that my wife and I will parent in ways that our sons will find heroes whose stories are rich with evidence of the fruits of the Spirit, of life that's truly life. I know many people whose stories illustrate such a life. And they aren't on the cover of a magazine or the nightly news. They are loving and serving the lease of these. They are showing up when the cameras aren't there, their heroism not recognized in headlines but significant in eternity's landscape.