One of our sister Methodist churches that I pass each day on my way to work had the following message on their sign in front of the church: “Aspire to inspire before you expire.” As I’m a big fan of alliteration, that message lodged in my brain and there has remained. Its appeal to me, however, is far more than mere wordplay. It brings to mind the question: “When I pass, what will I have left behind?”
That’s a question I’ve pondered, since, well, I guess since puberty. Before then, I wanted to be the hero — literally. I wanted to be Davy Crocket or Zorro or one of King Arthur’s knights or Superman or any one of a hundred others. Not be like them, but actually be them. I suppose I lacked the imagination to create my own heroes, so I wanted to be the ones that someone else created. Slowly, through the later grades of elementary school and on into junior high and high schools, that changed. I came to want to become a hero myself. I’m guessing that I speak for a lot of young men and women at that age in their lives when they are trying to learn whom they are. Many of them (most, I would hope), want to be remembered as a hero of some sort, though the form and definition of what that hero might be varies greatly. But, it still comes back to how you want to be remembered. Who would cry for you when you were gone and why?
You can get away with that type of thinking for a while — before you know what being a hero actually entails; before you know how expensive it can be. Once you do know, you understand that no one in their right minds would choose to be a hero. Most heroes are made when normal people are thrown into impossible situations and have to dig into themselves to find the strength and courage to do what needs to be done. Much of the time, they can’t find what they need by themselves. God helps them. In fact, of the heroes I have personally known, every single one has attributed his/her heroic deeds to the provenance of God. And no, that wasn’t a malapropism — I meant to say “provenance” as in “the source of origin of the heroic deed was God.” Yes, it’s an uncommon usage, but I mean to make a distinction from the “providence of God.”
Ordinary people, extraordinary circumstances, God — a recipe for heroism. You can find these heroes and be inspired by them at any age — yours or theirs. For instance, we have in our congregation a young woman who inspires me with her heroism every day. Caught in a horrendous situation, she shows perseverance and courage that makes me ask God that one day, when the need arises, I can be just as brave as she is.
They are gifts that God gives us, these ordinary people: these heroes. They show us by their great examples how we should live, just as Jesus did. Though they may seem to us to be different than we seem to ourselves, they are no different than we actually are. Given the extraordinary circumstance coming into our life and the hand of God in our hand, we could also be heroes. We could also inspire others. We need to prepare ourselves by keeping our relationship to God in good repair through prayer, study, and service. Life will send us the circumstances; of that we may be confident. We only need wait, ready, like the bridal party waited for the bridegroom. Aspire to inspire — be a gift to others of God’s children.
~ Kurt Hendrix