Defining a hero

whipWithin the first ten minutes of watching Raiders of the Lost Ark I thought it was one of the most awesome movies I’d ever seen. I left the theater wanting to be Indiana Jones. I mean, who doesn’t like Indy? He’s the quintessential American hero!

I wanted to be in the middle of the action, chasing bad guys, being tough enough to take on the Nazis by myself. It seemed like Indy won everything he went after.

But over time I’ve come to realize Indy didn’t win much. He certainly saved his own neck many times over, but when it came to getting what he was after he wasn’t so lucky. Even in the opening sequence, the idol Indy worked so hard to get is plucked from his grasp by Belloq. Indy’s left empty handed and lucky to escape with his life.

And it doesn’t stop.

Marion’s kidnapped from him. Indy believes she’s been killed. He finds and digs up the Ark of the Covenant only to almost literally hand it to the enemy. Indy gets Marion back again only to have her taken from him a second time. Finally he gets a rocket launcher to deal with the bad guys, but Indy’s bluff is called and he is captured. At the end of the movie where most heroes are saving the day, he’s tied to a post holding his eyes shut.

Indy doesn’t defeat the bad guys. It’s the Ark itself that dispatches them (what kind of hero could one-up God anyway?) The final insult comes when the government takes the Ark from him. I suppose one could argue that Indy finally gets the girl, but the sequels tell us that didn’t last long.

So how can he possibly be a hero? Well, it’s because of the type of obstacles he confronts. He challenged the Nazi army by himself. Indy outwitted his nemesis with scant help. He endured riding a submarine to a secret Nazi island. He faced a whole room full of snakes and lived to tell the story.

At the end of the day he found opportunity every time life handed him hardship.

These days I think Indy’s even more of a hero. Like us, he rarely wins, but he refuses to let life beat him down. We, too, may not get the girl or let our fears get the better of us, but how we deal with our problems is as important as the issues themselves.

Like Indy when they’re opening the Ark, we often hold our eyes shut in difficult times. We simply want our problems to go away and we make it hard to see God. Maybe we ought to find God inside our difficulties instead of assuming that’s the last place he could be. We may not be facing the same kind of obstacles Indy did, but we don’t have to face any of them alone.

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