By Tim Everton
We've seen a box office landslide of superhero movies recently. These classic stories have it all – and despite the fantasy there is always something in these tales to speak to our reality.
In the movie The Hulk, when scientist Bruce Banner gets angry his gamma-ray radiation-infused cells morph him into a temporary green beast of immense strength – he becomes a gross outer exaggeration of his inner rage.
Only two things can calm the Hulk: time and solitude, or his love, Betty Ross.
Betty's tender gaze, her gentle touch, her softness amidst the rage and carnage is the only thing that can overcome the beast. She looks past the green monster to the man inside.
As the Hulk sees Betty, his inner man wakes up and Bruce Banner eventually overcomes the beast. All that is left is a weakened, broken man amid the rubble.
We can be like the Hulk. We can get caught up in a destructive 'state' -rage, denial, self-destructive habits, pride, lust, envy or other sins.
We use these to try to escape pain from wounds lodged deep within our souls. Pains as varied and different as the sins we use to cover them up. Just like the Hulk we try to avoid our pain or destroy it completely, but our efforts are all pointless and self-defeating.
When we wake up from our 'Hulk state' reality hits and we have to pick up the pieces from the bliss of our self-destruction.
When we are unaware we are at our most destructive: this is why God desires that our eyes be opened. The Bible says it is God's 'loving kindness' drawing us to repentance. Repentance; being truly sorry, is waking up from our 'Hulk state' to see the hurt and damage we have caused, crying bitter tears of disbelief as to how we could ever cause so much pain to others and to God himself, the greatest lover of our souls and someone who always wants the best for us.
One of the most painful and humbling times in my life was soon after my wife left me. God graciously showed me who I really was deep down underneath all the pain: a lost little boy crying out for his father.
I was Bruce Banner waking up from his Hulk state, and boy did I see the destruction around me: how brash, cold and selfish I was with my wife. It hit me so hard I proceeded to fall headlong into a bottomless pit of despair. 'How could I have been so uncaring?' I said over and over.
A friend reassured me that this wasn't who I was anymore. I knew I hadn't been a monster, but even little wrongs piled up and hit me like a ton of bricks.
I then realised the extent of my sin against my friends and family, and the hurt and disappointment I had caused them. I had no excuses left: I was completely undone, and completely guilty.
All I could do was to admit my mistakes and beg each person for forgiveness. I would have freely accepted any punishment—it was deserved—but I came to discover how forgiving people are when you are humble and genuinely repentant.
This is how and why God wakes us up: not to punish us, but to show us our true selves. We begin to see we have hurt God most of all. When we truly realise this we are first overcome with dread, we have no excuses and are willing to take the punishment for what we have done.
At this point God says,"I know you're guilty. I love you so much that I sent my Son into the world to take the punishment for the wrongdoing and destruction you have caused. The punishment for your misdeeds has been taken care of, I have taken the punishment upon myself—such is my love for you".
Repentance is waking up! Just like Betty Ross frees the Hulk, God frees us from the trap of our pain and sin.
Instead of being forever a monster we are redeemed. We become like the Avengers, able to take what once caused such destruction and use it to set others free. Instead of being used by the enemy of God, God's love empowers us to overcome the enemy.
"....It was for this very reason that the Son of God appeared, that He might destroy the works of the evil one", says 1 John chapter 3, verse 8.•