Thursday, June 28, 2012

We Boast of Our Afflictions

I thought it appropriate to post this one on a Thor's Day.* In the movie "Thor", we follow the titular hero through his fall and subsequent return to grace.

While I love to find Christ-figures in modern fiction, here I find an us-figure.  An us-trying-to-be-like-Christ-figure. A Saint Paul getting knocked from his (figurative or literal) high horse and, only then, seeing the light.

There is not a parallel but, perhaps, a perpendicular with Christ in the Asgardian. Thor was cast down; Christ condescended. Thor had something to learn; Jesus had something to teach. Thor had to earn the right to carry his hammer again; Jesus freely took up the cross He did not deserve. Thor destroyed the bridge between "gods" and men; Jesus is the bridge between God and men.

Thor is not a Christ-figure here. He is an example, instead, of our own process of reconciliation and reconfiguration to Christ. At first, he seems fine. He drinks some coffee and makes eyes at the pretty girl. We may think, "if that's affliction, sign me up!" However, something is missing. Thor is wounded and doesn't know it. He is missing something that he cannot see or measure until he tries to claim it. He finds, then, that he has lost the gift, or grace, of his father. He cannot bear Mjolnir any longer. In a vital way, he has stopped being "Thor". He has lost himself.

In the end, he can only reclaim himself - his true nature, his Thor-ness - by letting himself go. He finds himself by losing himself, by giving himself over to death. (cf Luke 9:23-24, John 12:24)

St. Paul tells us that "...we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us." (Rom 5:3-5)

How many of us are walking around, drinking coffee, making eyes at that pretty girl, and never noticing what's missing. Most people don't feel the loss of grace in a tangible way, yet when we sin, we lose something very real. Our afflictions may show us our condition, and they build up our endurance to resist sin in the future. It is through the cross that we come to Christ.

* So, yeah, using a pagan name (or date or symbol) doesn't mean you have endorsed or adopted the belief, does it? 

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