Hulk, Ultron, and Self Condemnation:
When I left out of the theatre after Age Of Ultron, I wasn't exactly pumped. The movie was great, it was enjoyable and well-done. Yes, it was dark, but I like my heroes like I like my coffee. Earlier today it hit me why I wasn't enthused. It wasn't because the movie was bad, or that there was poor storytelling, or a lack of Coulson (which sucked, by the way), but it was because I identified with it. Because I saw myself on screen, particularly in the form of Bruce Banner/The Hulk. Banner was struggling with his self worth and his destructive tendencies since becoming the Hulk. He has strived to keep himself away from provocation and to keep everyone else away from the danger his presence created; he had to be coerced to be a part of this team in the first place. After Scarlet Witch gets in his head, he goes on a destructive rampage leveling chunks of South Africa and is only brought down by weapon Tony Stark has at his disposal. After their defeat, the team comes back together on the ride home, broken, beaten, and destroyed, none more so than Bruce. The image of him shivering in shock, sitting on the ground, wrapping a blanket around himself says so much. This is a man that knows the damage he can cause and has fought for years to keep the destruction inside of him at bay. Now the whole world has seen it, broadcasted as Dr. Banner stated, "The whole world has just seen the REAL Hulk for the first time."
That’s where it gets deeper. That's who Banner see's as the real Hulk: the monster. Black Widow goes to great lengths to tell him throughout the film that this isn't his identity, to show how much better they are with him than without him. But that's where Bruce lands: he's a monster. Forget the fact he stopped Abomination, Loki, The Chitauri, and made some of the greatest advancements in tech out there. All he see's when he looks at himself is the monster. I've been there. I've been there recently. I've been there more than I want to be.
Everyone else has this image of who you are, but deep down all you see are your failures, your shortcomings, your faults, and no matter how much your loved ones or people respect tell you otherwise, it doesn't change that deep gut feeling of who you believe yourself to be. That's what I saw when Banner sat cowering on the floor of that plane, I saw me.
Self condemnation is a force equally destructive to Dr. Banner's great green alter ego. It attacks us, even when we aren't facing opposition from anyone else. No one on that painful plane ride was blaming Hulk. Every one of them were incapacitated, or attacked by the twins. Outside of Hawkeye, they all were put through the same attack. Hulk didn't fail. The team failed. But just like with our own hearts, Bruce saw all the weight on himself, and it was crushing. We have
to come to the place where we realize that self- condemnation is as fruitful as self-salvation and is in actuality just a form of self-deception. It's something that doesn't actually accomplish anything and only exists when we believe or enforce it on ourselves.
"If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you." - Psalm 130:3-4
If God isn't going to keep track of the sins of His people, why should we keep track of them for Him? Yes we should acknowledge, confess, and repent of our sins, but how often do we keep a running tab of our failures replaying through the back of our mind.
Even if there was a record, we are told that in Christ there isn't condemnation anyway. "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" - Romans 8:1
So why do we allow ourselves to stay in this place? Recently, I failed in some areas in my life. A select few people know the details. These are the people I trust, love, and respect. Even though I know these people love me regardless and don't look at me any differently, it takes everything in my power to believe that. Like Bruce, sometimes all I see is my failure. Even if my failure is only a fraction of a percentage of how my life is normally lived, somehow I think that's
all people will see. Just this week I was at an event where one of the people I previously spoke of was attending. They saw me across the parking lot and started walking toward me. Even though I know that person loves me with their whole heart, I literally had to fight the urge to run and hide because when I saw someone that knows my failures, all I could think is that they see my failures, and nothing more. I felt that all I measure up to are the areas I'm weak, the areas I'm destructive, and the areas I'm out of control. I stood my ground and greeted my friend, because I knew he didn't see my failures. I know the same is true for God, no matter how many times I forget it.
One of my favorite passages in John 8 with the woman caught in adultery. Not only does Jesus defend her from those who would condemn her, he shows her grace Himself. "Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (Verses 10-11) Jesus defends us from others condemning us, and even refrains from condemning us Himself. So how do you think He would feel about us condemning ourselves? If Jesus doesn't won't exercise the right to condemn us here and now, then we need to see it's not our place either.
I think the saddest part of Hulk's story was after the battle was won, and Black Widow was trying to lullaby him back to normality, he just turned her communication off and sat there in his own isolation and self-condemnation. He decided for himself that he didn't need to be in anyone else's life and he didn't deserve to be a part of the team or deserve grace or forgiveness. I have sat in that same position. I have been in that place. Not that anyone has offered me a spot on the Avengers roster, but you feel me. Don't choose that route in your life. Don't miss out on God using you, blessing you, and growing you because you are more harsh on yourself that the world or even God is.
You are more than your failures. Grace is greater than your failures. You are not a monster, but self- condemnation is. Don't let it win. Fight it with the truth of what God has shown you, and the worth and love he has placed on you.