I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ...
"How long have been at Kamar Taj, Mister....?"
"...maybe. Who am I to judge?"
That scene has no actual bearing on this reflection. I just found it really funny. Our family has been watching the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe films over the past few months. We recently watched Doctor Strange together, and it was a good time. If you haven't seen it, I won't give any spoilers, but it involves a group of people who harness mystical energy to defeat the power of evil and protect the world, that sort of stuff. Also, they can make sparkly circles and jump through them to other places on the earth.
It's a great movie. So please don't get freaked out about the mention of fictional sorcerers in a reflection about Jesus. It's ok, I promise.
The storyline is fascinating. The ones who are the Masters of the Mystic Arts began as misfits, overcome with anger, heartbreak, or loss. They are people who have suffered deeply or been deeply wounded, and they sought hope and power and healing. Ironically, they seek it from a being known as "The Ancient One." Too good, right?
As Doctor Strange is still seeking to claim the power for his own gain, he hears a Master named Mordo speaking to the Ancient One about why he came:
"I wanted the power to defeat my enemies. You gave me the power to defeat my demons..."
I don't know what happened after that because I was fixated on that quote for the next 5 minutes.
I wanted the power to defeat my enemies. You gave me the power to defeat my demons.
It's easy to pursue all that's wrong in the world without allowing Jesus to pursue all that's wrong in us.
That shouldn't lead us to inaction, guilt, or low self-worth, but rather to honesty about how easy it is to act like the exact things we want to change.
This is a significant part of our growth with Jesus. Often, our attention is life is given to trying to change external things first. Internal work is hard. We can put meetings and service events and rallies and fundraisers on our calendars. But when was the last time that you had Tuesday from 6-8pm marked on your calendar for "inner transformation with Jesus?"
Yet the truth is, our outward actions will never be quite right without our inward spirits being changed. We may mistake which battles are the right ones to fight, and how exactly to fight them.
Mordo was motivated by his desire for judgment against those who had wronged him. But his inward journey made him understand that the darkness within him first needed to be addressed, before going back and using his power out in the world. He was seeking revenge. What he needed was redemption.
If Jesus is our teacher and our master, he will lead us to humbly address our own blind spots. And as we receive grace and love, we emerge ready to act in the world not only with priorities of Jesus, but in the character of Jesus as well. That means will be growing in compassion for even our enemies, eventually longing for restoration and renewal of those who participate in evil, rather than their destruction.
But you can't get to that without going through the inward journey. And before we think that this all just sounds like hard work (IT IS!), can we just delight in the fact that we are in relationship with a God who actually wants to set our hearts right and set us free personally, rather than just demanding a set of external behaviors? What a gift.
We each have elements of fear, anger, hatred, exclusivism, selfishness, and violence within us somewhere. Let's give all of that to Jesus rather than sending it back out into the world. God's redemptive power is going to be far more useful out there than our own power anyways.
Jesus, give me courage to open my heart to you for big and little changes today, so that my actions are grounded in you.