Power. Status. Influence. Authority. These were four ideas we studied at a conference this summer. We examined our experience with the words, our feelings about what they conveyed, and reflected on how we see and embody them in the world. I have a new relationship with ‘power’ now. In my mind, power is the energy we radiate and share. How we use the life and enthusiasm and influence to ‘turn on’ others.
The hero’s journey predates even our earliest holy scriptures. How we define that journey varies from culture to culture, generation to generation, and one thing all these stories have in common is that they inspire us—inspire us to dream, to take the risk, to listen to the Holy Spirit on fire inside of us, and go.
This idea of a hero’s journey has popped up a couple of times for me this summer. First, when watching Joseph Campbell interviews on the power of myth at the suggestion of a friend, and later in a book I received at a conference. In that book, Cassandra Speaks, Elizabeth Lesser says, ‘…the hero’s journey – the inner calling to push off from the shore of mother and father, to test limits, to know your worth, to speak your truth, to claim authentic selfhood.’ One might say, the hero’s journey is learning to recognize the God-created power entrusted to us and how to use it.
Jesus demonstrated exactly this throughout his life when defying social norms and going out—to the wilderness, to heal on the Sabbath, to care for the untouchable, to move toward the cross.
Mary, a young woman from Nazareth, mother of Jesus, had her own hero journey. Stories of Mary’s life are more broadly passed down and shared than anyone else in the Bible, save Jesus himself. Scripture accounts for her conversations with angels, her inner calling to carry a child—a Messiah no less— outside the social norms, to leave home, to receive kings eager to welcome her child, to treasure in her heart a precocious child who stayed behind at Passover to learn and to seek from teachers, and to carry on as a disciple beyond her own son’s life.
Tuned into her creator, open to all of life that was available to her (rather than an expectation painted by her culture or town), a grateful heart prepared to serve a powerful God, not at her own expense but to glorify the world as it exists, Mary lived a hero’s journey, inspiring 2,000 years of souls to do the same. Her influence is immeasurable.
A few weeks ago, I spent time learning from a woman whose hero journey has taken her down a path outside social norms, caring for those with little but gratitude to give in return. Maria Galletas is the founder and director of Madres y Familias Deportadas en Acción, an information center in Tijuana, Mexico for deportees. She works to ease the transition for migrants separated from their families. And her light shines bright.
Maria lives in San Diego, drives to her office in Tijuana to help migrants and deportees with food, clothing, skill acquisition, and connecting with family, advocates, and resources. She then drives back to San Diego, often waiting for hours to cross back. She does this 3-5 days a week when she’s not working her income-generating job in San Diego. By drawing on her God-given power to help others, she has status, authority, and influence, and she uses it to lift others. Her power heals and helps and inspires others to use their power to do the same.
Our children have access to lots of heroes—Bible stories, children’s literature, Disney movies, first responders. We are purposeful about filling our younger children’s lives with heroes. But what about our teenagers? Who are their heroes? What hero stories influence them? Maybe a scarier question is, ‘whose story is louder and more memorable than anyone they follow on social media?’
How do we create opportunities or connect with opportunities for our children to be influenced by the Marys and Marias of the world? How do we draw their attention to the selfless and extraordinary work that surrounds us?
We trust the adults in our kids’ lives are leading those with integrity and grace. And do these young heroes-in-the-making have examples of extraordinary? Of daring to dream? Of taking a risk? Of the energizing power of compassion? Of following the Holy Spirit within us to do something a little different in the interest of others?
And how do we let them know that this childhood of preparation is because they have a hero’s journey ahead? When the Spirit calls.