When I pretended o be Wonder Woman as a kid, I focused on her superpowers, trying to mimic flying through the air and dodging bullets. But as an adult, I realized I could not truly be a fan without looking into her whole story.
Fans of any superhero become deeply attached as they follow their favorite’s journey through comic book pages or on film, identifying more with their flaws than their superhuman abilities.
Within the journey are answers to our own weaknesses and insecurities.
When it comes to relationships, superheroes often struggle to balance calling with the equal desire to love and be loved. Like all of us, they deeply desire relationships and have vices that keep them from it. Some of them are even tempted to give up part of who they are to get that love, but in the end learn to balance both.
We can learn a lot from the hero’s journey — maybe even how to become a hero for ourselves. Here’s how
As much as you would like to forget about the past, your backstory affects your past, present and future. Comic books re-visit a superhero’s backstory over and over because it impacts how they see the moment and how they see themselves. Would Bruce Wayne have become Batman had his parents not been taken from him? Your story, good and bad, makes you who you are.
Just like any superhero, you must bring purpose out of it in order to find healing in your life. In marriage, your backstory will come up in conflict, values, and your experience of love. Bring purpose out of pain if you must — and then use it to serve others.
Just like Moana is called to the water and Princess Diana of Paradise Island is called to Man’s World, there is always a call to adventure. Many heroes deny the calling, or at least try. For others, something tragic happens to sabotage the call to adventure. Fear, insecurity, even others can convince you that the adventure is too dangerous.
There are many calls to adventure in marriage — the wedding day, reconnecting after a fight, having children, even courageously tearing down the emotional walls that separate you. There will always be a temptation not to answer the call and wait. But you will never truly know the power of marriage, or your own ability, if you deny the call.
Moana crosses the reef; Diana leaves the island to go to Man’s World. Ironically, this is the favorite part of the journey for the audience and possibly the worst for the hero. The hero must battle the enemy, rescue the victim, and is bloodied and bruised. The audience doesn’t want it to end, but it is not because of the external battle. It is the hero’s inner conflict to which the audience relates.
Marriage is difficult because we must face our own insecurities, backstory, temptations and weaknesses if we will ever have the marriage we desire. This is where we will experience the ugliness of our spouse, life and the world. It also where we see what we are made of and then made into who we are capable of becoming.
When the battles seem never-ending, it is hard to believe that blessing is on the other side, but it is. Once the hero has resolved the internal conflict, blessing in the form of completion always happens next.
Not be confused with perfection, there will always be another battle to fight or inner conflict to resolve. Instead, blessing often comes in the form of love from whomever they saved, validation of their identity, or renewed confidence. In marriage, we see it in the release of tension when we have worked through a difficult conflict and find each other again.
Every hero is transformed through this process, and so are you. It is a cycle we go through again and again as we grow into who we have been created to be.
Deployments change us, as do life’s surprises. Many of us return to our loved ones different than we left.
For Diana, she is no longer just their princess, she is now Wonder Woman. Superheroes realize through this journey that they no longer fit in one place and must accept who they are.
Marriage can become truly home. Your spouse can be your safe place to return where you can rejoice in victories or have your wounds bandaged — either way, you are home and you.
Where are you in the hero’s journey? Do you need to accept the call to adventure, embrace your backstory, or maybe remember blessing is coming? Where is your spouse in his or her journey? Don’t forget that they are your hero too.
While superheroes struggle to balance their calling with their relationships, they recognize that there is no calling without love. Those who love a hero accept that their hero may be called to serve the world, but they get to serve the hero.
You can watch or listen to more about “The Hero’s Journey” on the Lifegiver Podcast.
According to the 2015 Annual Military Lifestyle Survey by Blue Star Families, 60% of spouses reported that employment was a top stressor in their life. This is not surprising, as our culture of spouses includes those who want a sense of purpose inside and outside of the home. Blue Star also reported “military families with employed spouses experienced greater financial security, better mental health, and higher satisfaction with the military lifestyle.” This doesn’t imply that you need to have a job to have better mental and financial health, but for those who have a longing (or need) to work, the path to employment can feel like the American Ninja Warrior Games.
I remember sitting at my kitchen table in tears grieving the loss of a job. I was exhausted at the thought of interviews and transferring my license to a new state. I remember feeling the seed of bitterness grow in my heart towards the military, and my husband was the target. I love him, it wasn’t his fault, but I had no where else to direct it. My guess is that some of you have felt those same feelings! If I could go back and sit down with my discouraged tearful self, this is what I would have told her.
1.Your family is more important than your career. At the end of the day, the question we ask ourselves is not how much money did I make, but was I who my family needed me to be? If this falls apart, everything falls apart. Your marriage is the one “home” you will take with you everywhere you go. Invest in this first so that it is a place of peace and strength that you both want to come home to.
2. Know which “itch” you are scratching. There is a difference between having a passion or talent that you want to fulfill and feeling restless about life in general. A job can provide community, accomplishment, and build confidence, but it is not a cure-all. It will not address deep insecurity, marital conflict, or general dissatisfaction with life. Ask yourself what the longing inside is and what you are missing. Some of what you are feeling may be a call to address what is at home, first.
3. Be patient with your stage of life. Looking back, what I wanted to do in my 20’s and 30’s was not possible, even if we weren’t in the military. To be honest, I don’t think I could have handled it! Don’t underestimate the wisdom and maturity that is building through these years. It makes you patient during stress, experience (inside and outside of the home) to call upon in your career, and trust with the people who will provide references later. Enjoy what is in front of you- whether it is on the playground or the entry-level assignment you have been given.
Serving families in my career has brought so much joy, but I would walk away from it all if my spouse or children needed me to. What is it that you are longing for today? Take time to journal it out, then take the next step that is most wise– and don’t forget to ask for help if you need it.