Spiderman Homecoming: More than the Suit
Look at this another: Spiderman chapter! I've never been the biggest Spiderfan, but honestly the MCU Spidey makes him a lot more enjoyable. His appearance in Civil War was delightful and opens a door for him to be wholeheartedly embraced by the superhero movie going public.
In Homecoming, after Peter had been given the improved spider suit from Tony Stark, he decides to go a little bit rogue in tracking down the Vulture, and what follows is a series of bad choices and unfortunate events. Spiderman effectively failed at actually doing anything effective in his pursuit of Vulture, and ultimately risked the lives of all the people on a ferry. While his web skills were impressive, if it hadn't been for the intervention of Iron Man, there would have been some very heavy collateral damage. Spiderman was ashamed, humiliated, embarrassed, and rightfully so.
That's one of the reasons I struggle being a Spiderfan, because Spiderman makes these same kinds of mistakes and choices well into his story, but honestly, we are still in the origin stages here and I'm totally fine with it. In fact, it's necessary because it caused him to learn and grow. In that learning and growing process, Iron Man revoked his suit.
Tony: Previously on peter screws the pooch, I tell you to stay away from this, instead you hacked a multimillion dollar suit so you could sneak around behind my back doing the one thing I told you not to do Peter: Is everyone ok? Tony: No thanks to you. Peter: No thanks to me? Those weapons are out there, and I tried to tell you about it, but you didn't listen. None of this would've happened if you just listened to me. Tony: I did listen kid, who do you think called the FBI huh? Do you know I was the only one who believed in you? Everyone else said I was crazy to recruit a 14-year- old kid. What if somebody had died tonight? Different story, right? Because that's on you. And if you died, I feel like that's on me. I don't need that on my conscience. Peter: I just wanted to be like you. Tony: And I wanted you to be better. It's not working out. I'm gonna need the suit back. Peter: For how long? Tony: Forever. Peter: Please this is all I have, I'm nothing without this suit. Tony: If you're nothing without this suit, then you shouldn't have it."
We, like Spiderman have a tendency to let our identity, strength, purpose, security, and confidence reside in outside forces. Maybe it's a job, relationship, platform, or who knows, maybe it is a Stark tech suit of armor (I don't know your life). We hide behind these things and think they give us purpose and identity. Most of the time, these things don't actually give us as much as what we think. We just are comfortable hiding behind them. Peter was in this same place, he quickly became too reliant on his identity being tied to Stark's suit. In all reality, Peter was more of a hero when he was running around in a hoodie, because then he didn't have something else to hide behind. He became dependent on the armor, but I think it was more than the armor. I think it was equally as much about the approval of Iron Man and the concept that he was on some level with the Avengers. That projected symbol of status was as much something he hid behind as the mask.
In 1 Samuel 17, Saul has his own Ironman moment where he tries to suit up David like Spiderman, only it has the opposite effect. "Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. “I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine." - 1 Samuel 17:38-40
We have the famous well-established mentor passing on a suit of armor and acclaim to the up and coming hero, except David rejects it. He doesn't need the Saul label, the name, or the look of the king. He doesn't need it to feel like he is valuable or worthy. Once he is wearing it, he realizes it's not him. It doesn't fit. It'll just trip him up. He took off the upgraded gear and went back to what he knew and what worked for him. He was confident in who he was, but more importantly, who his God was.
I think we end up more on the Peter Parker side than the David side. We want the labels, the status, the "armor" to hide behind, when in reality we need to be comfortable in our own skin, our own identity, and in who God created us to be. David learned this first hand when it came to his own anointing.
"When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but
Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.” Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.” So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” -1 Samuel 16:6-12
David's older brother Eliab looked like the hero of the story. He looked like the one that should be chosen to be king. He looked like the one that belonged in Saul's armor, but God had rejected Eliab and made it clear he wasn't interested in the outward, but who this future king would be on the inside. Tony chose Peter not because of a brand or marketing, or anything else. Tony chose Peter because of the character he possessed. He had every red flag in the world to avoid giving his attention, opportunity, and focus to a kid, but he saw the heart and character of who Peter really was, and that's why he chose him. That, and he knew Captain America was going to kick his butt. Tony truly did want Peter to be something better than what he had been. He wanted Peter to take the character he already possessed and use it in stride with his power.
When God chose David, it was because of his heart. When God gives us opportunities, responsibilities, positions, or power, He doesn't need a fake. He doesn't need us to put on some disguise or armor to hide behind. He needs us to simply be the people He has called us to be and follow Him. No amount of armor, public persona, advertising, branding, or marketing will make us better believers. An amazing social media campaign is not going to be the light in the darkness. We living out our calling in the spirit and relationship of God is what He needs us to be. Our strength and security will never be found in any other place. If we feel like we need more than what God has already given us to be something great, then just like Peter, we are deceived.
When Peter had the Stark tech spidey suit and began relying heavily on that. He became overconfident. He started becoming cocky, rebellious, and disobedient. He stopped listening to what Tony was telling him because he "knew" better, and he had the power in this suit to be able to make a difference, even if it meant throwing away the trust he had built with Iron Man. He thought he was further advanced in the hero game than he actually was. He thought he had arrived, but he wasn't there yet.
This is something that happens to the best of the heroes, though. It happened to Iron Man in Civil War and Ultron, which is also why it was probably so important to Tony that Peter be better than he was. We can all benefit from simply taking a step back and being honest with where we stand and in who we are and the choices we are currently making. When we develop a false sense of confidence in the wrong things, it can really blind us to the truth and reality of our situation.
In the movie, a lot of Peter's poor choices could have been avoided if he had simply taken a step back and examined himself, or for that matter if he had simply listened to the people in his life that were trying to give him wisdom.
The apostle Paul makes this concept clear in 1 Corinthians 10:11-12 when he writes, "These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!" Paul tells us that the mistakes and poor choices of Israel should be examples for us in what mistakes not to make, but even more so that when we think we are in a solid place, or even over confident place, then that is the exact time we really do need to examine ourselves. It’s when we think we are strong that we are at the greatest risk of falling down. When Peter thought he could truly handle things on his own is when he fell the furthest and did the most damage.
Peter went on to prove to himself and everyone else that he didn't need the suit and that all of his strength was in himself. It wasn’t just in his super powers, but in his character and determination. As Christians we will find that we don't need anything else than what is inside of us, and I don't mean our own confidence, skill, or determination. I mean the power of God. Peter (the disciple, not Spiderman) reminds us that we have all we need in God. "His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness" (2 Peter 1:3).
Like Tony, sometimes God will have to take away the things we hide from in order for us to move forward.
"Sorry I took your suit. I mean, you had it coming. Actually, it turns out it was the perfect sort of tough love moment that you needed, to urge you on, right? Don't you think? Let's just say it was. Look, you screwed the pooch hard. Big time. But then you did the right thing: you took the dog to the clinic, you raised the hybrid puppies... alright, not my best analogy. I just wanted to mention that I think with a little more mentoring, you could be a real asset to the team." - Iron Man.
Please know that like Spidey, your identity isn't bound our found in what you put on, or what you hide behind. You are more than your persona. God looks at the heart, and he replaces the parts of our heart that are broken and wicked with His spirit and truth. Please let go of anything you are hiding behind, and keep your heart and attitude in check.