I wonder who it was that you worshipped as a hero when you were little. Was it a film star or a pop star, a sporting legend or a political legend? As a teenager growing up, and living in rural Ireland I was more interested in the beach and playing tennis, than any individual. I like music but never followed anyone in particular. But we did, as a family, follow the tennis stars, so I think the person I looked up to most was probably John McEnroe. He’s a about 8 years older than me, so still seemed young enough to be young, he was clearly a brilliant tennis player who won everything, but at the same time he was a rebel who challenged all the rules and regulations and was his own person. I wanted to do that, to be as good as him, as cool as him, as free as him.
Now when I look at celebrities like TV stars, pop stars, models and movie stars, I look and wonder and am amazed they do it. Why would anyone want to do a job that requires they become what others want and live by other people’s expectations? And I’m horrified that these are the people so many teenagers and young adults look up to and want to emulate.
One of the things that I am loving about this season of the pandemic is that we have new celebrities, and these are not those who live excessive lives, act to meet other people’s expectation, or fit into the lifestyle other people want of them. These new celebrities don’t care what others think or if anyone is following them. These new celebrities, in fact, aren’t very aware of themselves at all. These are our new heroes – our NHS and Care workers, putting themselves in harm’s way to prevent someone else from dying. These are the people that the nation applaud every Thursday evening. These are those who do because it has to be done, those who give because someone else is in need, those who stay present because someone needs their care. Alongside those new heroes of ours are those who give them to us, so I applaud, too, the families of our Doctors and and Nurses and Carers – thank you for giving us your loved ones so we can live and survive.
If you want to hero-worship anyone then find a doctor or a nurse, a carer or a background supporter who won’t even care if you look up to them. See the christ-like character in these people, whether they know Jesus or not, and emulate that sacrificial giving up of time, energy and love for another. See the way they live out their vocation by being accountable and safe and following the rules, all for the sake of another. It’s not cool to break rules when that harms society, or to be yourself to the detriment of another, or to be free if that means lacking consideration of others. Jesus lived within the rules in a way that set people free, he remained true to himself but was accountable to his Father, he was freely himself but within the lifestyle of his people. In being true and free he was also willing to contain himself for the sake of others, and in all things he loved others, set them free and brought justice into being. He loved as he was called to, but without breaking the rules, defying or damaging others, or becoming an outcast. Learning to live like that, like Jesus, makes you a celebrity in heaven – although of course Jesus is the top star, the one we all look up to.
What is your current vocation? Within what boundaries are you called to live right now? How are you finding and being truly all God made you to be within those restrictions? How are you able to love others as you love yourself? How are you loving God even more again?