Batman, Wonder Woman, and Guarding Your Heart.
This chapter will primarily focus on the two-issue story ark from Batman Rebirth #39-40 by Tom King. This story introduces a hero called, "The Gentle Man,” a hero that spends an eternity fighting physical manifestations of people's sins and keeping them from overtaking our world. He has literally spent thousands of years in another dimension fighting against an everlasting horde of the sins of mankind on his own. The Justice League came across The Gentle Man once and made a promise that they would give him a day off. That is one day to leave his battle and to step into our world and rest. In the Gentle Man's dimension, superpowers don't work, so they need great warriors with or without powers, so that equals Batman and Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman shows up on top of GCPD, flips the bat-signal for fun, and alerts Batman that it's their turn. It’s time to give The Gentle Man the day off.
If you haven't been reading Tom King's Batman, fix that. It's fantastic. There's a chapter on Tom King's Batman in book 4 as well.
Moving on, in the current timeline Batman and Catwoman are engaged and have slowly been making life preparations for their marriage. Between clearing her name, going on double dates with Superman and Lois, and getting in a hardcore catfight with Talia, it's been an adventure. So, when Batman is going on an adventure into another dimension with Wonder
Woman to fight sin monsters, he also has to consider how it affects Catwoman. This is going to make an impact on their future and their marriage, but it's only one day. The story wouldn't be that deep or entertaining if there wasn't some twist to it, and then it hits. Time moves way faster in The Gentle Man's dimension that in ours. Effectively several hours here is 37 years there.
Batman and Wonder Woman signed up for one day of duty and ended up spending almost 4 decades with no other human interaction. Alone together, day and night with no hope or concept of when or if they will make it home, they struggle on. As they are battling, Wonder Woman starts asking some hard questions to Batman. "You miss her? Yes, you must, I think. However long it has been. How can you not? You love her. You will marry her. And here you are without her. With me.”
It's clear that the loneliness, the shared experiences, the adrenaline, and all that has played into their countless days together is wearing on them emotionally. Batman has made a commitment to Catwoman, but he is literally stranded with the most beautiful, powerful woman Batman has ever known. They didn't plan for any of this to happen, but in reality, we never really do plan for things like this to happen. No one schedules to have their heart pulled in the wrong direction. No one says, "I'll pencil in a lapse of integrity on Thursday,” when making their schedule. We never know when situations like this are going to arise, which is why it's so important to have your heart, mind, character, and integrity already prepared and in check in any situation.
The frequently quoted Proverbs 4:23 is a clear and sober reminder of this. It reads, "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." We have to guard our hearts because our hearts will often lead us, and let's be real with ourselves for a minute. Our hearts aren't always the best at making wise choices. Our heart will easily believe lies, and it lies to us on its own. There's a reason the scripture says "above all else" when it tells us to guard our hearts, because our hearts are the piece of us most likely to get in trouble. Jeremiah recognized this as well when he writes, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9). It is counterintuitive to fight back against what we desire, but we need to understand that just because we want something doesn't mean it's the right thing for us.
It takes 10 years alone before Batman and Wonder really begin to crack in their integrity. In a scene where they are both looking tired, defeated, and lonely, realizing they may never leave the dimension they are in, they begin this dialogue as they sit by a campfire:
Diana: So then, perhaps this is everything. All of life, our life. Bruce: The hordes are...everlasting. Diana: And all we have, forever, is you and me. Bruce: Yeah.
Diana: You know, even without the pointy ears, you do not look so bad. Bruce: Yeah."
As they lean in for a kiss, the issue ends. BAM. It's one of the rare times I was so invested in the story that I was angry for a moment that I had to wait for the next issue. My 10-year-old daughter read the issue and ran into the room yelling, "DAD THEY CAN'T! HE'S ENGAGED!" I didn't want this to go the wrong way for that exact reason. I love the way Tom King has written these heroes, and I didn't want my admiration for them to be comprised in this. I mean, I get it though. Ten years alone with Wonder Woman? Thirty-seven years alone with Batman? In complete isolation? I don't think too many people would fault them if their hearts went that route. I know there are some people that were actively rooting for it. I have a friend named Amy that is a strong supporter of the "WonderBat" union and ships them together pretty hard. But I spent the next day's eagerly awaiting the outcome of this lip tingling cliffhanger.
When issue 40 finally dropped, my heart sat in my throat as I read the 3 pages that lingered the conclusion of this moment. As they are millimeters away from each other's lips they begin to speak;
Bruce: Diana.. Diana: Bruce.. Bruce: We...can't... Diana: No. We can't. Ever.
(as they finally start to step out of their heated moment) Bruce: This...This is ridiculous. Diana: Yes. It very much is. Bruce: I love her. I miss her. Diana: She sounds like a good woman. Just as my Steve Trevor is a good man. And like Steve Trevor, your Selina deserves someone who is also good. So be good. And if you are not...As your friend, let me tell you Batman...I will hit you so hard, your silly pointy ears will fall right off."
And that ladies and gentlemen is why I love Wonder Woman. The whole blame of the moment wasn't just on Batman. They were both feeling it, but Wonder Woman took the time to clearly lay out boundaries and set the tone of where they needed to be even though their hearts clearly wanted to be together and to fight the loneliness. They wanted to give in to all they had felt in that ten years of isolation. Wonder Woman, with as much grace as possible handled the situation to make sure that this didn't have to happen again, and that they weren't going to let their hearts end up in this place of vulnerability. Three separate occasions in the Song of Solomon we see this phrase, "Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires." It happens in Song of Solomon 2:7, 3:5, and 8:4. Scripture warns us to not intentionally stir up feelings in yourself and others that aren't in the right time. That also applies to stirring up feelings in yourself and others that you
have no right to stir up. That includes feelings you can't fulfill without damaging you or someone else's commitments and integrity.
When you look at those 3 pages in issue 40, you can easily see that it would have only taken one right word, or one slight movement to further go down the road their hearts were leading them. They both were struggling with it. They both knew they were in the wrong. They both wanted it, but they had to make that choice. I'm so glad they made that choice. Not because I would have looked down on Batman or Wonder Woman for making the wrong choice, but because in those panels and the ones that followed, my heroes inspired me. They didn't inspire me to fight crime or save the world; they inspirited me to have integrity and to be a man that honored my vows no matter how hard of a situation I was in or no matter how far off course my heart was leading me. I even took time to write Tom King for inspiring me to be a better man through this issue. I've been in this place before and failed, and it was so encouraging to see not only an example of people struggling, but of people overcoming insane temptation and struggle for the sake of commitment and integrity.
While Bruce and Diana are in their own struggles, The Gentle Man and Catwoman are exchanging small talk over fast food when their conversation starts to fall on the very topic of integrity that is being tested another dimension away.
The Gentle Man: Batman is very popular here. Catwoman: Batman is popular everywhere.
The Gentle Man: Hm. He is a good man. Catwoman: I hope so. The Gentle Man: You are his wife? Catwoman: To be. The Gentle Man: Why would you marry a man if you can only hope that he is good?"
The reality of the matter is that anyone we enter into a relationship can only hope that we are good. They can only hope we will keep our commitments. They can only hope we will be people of integrity. I think it's time that we make it a priority as individuals and as a people to have enough integrity to fulfill the hope that people place in us.
One of my favorite passages about King David is Psalm 78:72. It reads, "and David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them." The integrity of our heart affects more than our romantic relationships, marriages, and families. The integrity of our heart effects how we lead and live for Christ. Batman and Wonder Woman spending 37 years together alone without being unfaithful makes them more heroes to me than a glowing rope and fully stocked utility belt. I want to be a man of integrity. I want my heart to be able to display integrity regardless of how many evil desires may lurk in it.
When Batman is finally reunited with Catwoman and with The Gentle Man and Wonder Woman gone, they had this discussion:
Bat: I have to tell you something. A moment.... Cat: Thirty-Seven years. A Wonder woman. Were you bad? Bat: Not bad, but not good enough. Cat: Okay. Bat: This is new, but I'm trying. Cat: Yes, well, try harder. Even through nothing "happened," Batman was still going to tell Catwoman about the struggle. One of the best ways we prevent the struggle from overtaking us is through honesty, transparency, and accountability. When we can confess where we struggle, we don't get to hide there anymore. The people that love us can help strengthen us. Catwoman didn't tear Batman apart over his “moment," but she also took that moment to nudge him in the right direction. That kind of stuff doesn't happen organically. We have to intentionally invite accountability into our lives if we want it.
"Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results." - James 5:16.
James makes the point that WE have to confess our sins, not wait for someone to catch us, or pry it out of us. Let's try harder.
Guard your hearts. Don't stir up feelings you don't need to. Cultivate your integrity. Invite accountability. Also, don't get stranded in a hellish dimension for 37 years.