The end is near—we are officially in the Endgame.
By the time you’re reading this, chances are high that I’m settling myself into a theater seat. Yes, I pre-purchased tickets to Avengers: Endgame. Yes, I bought them for opening weekend. Yes, I am a fully functioning adult—and I love superhero movies. Shut up, you know you love them too.
Even if you claim to not care about superheroes (I don’t believe you), what Marvel has done is nothing short of impressive. 20+ films, each existing in the same cinematic universe, all telling individual stories but also keying us into one grander narrative. That story comes to its climactic conclusion this weekend. On the risk of offending all the fans of Westeros, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the world’s most loved storyline.
But as much as I love Marvel movies, I have to admit, every single one of these movies is essentially the same. There’s a flawed or disadvantaged individual; a problem with dire consequences; lives hanging in the balance; a hero finding the power to fight back and saving the world. I don’t care if you’re talking about Iron Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, or Ant Man and The Wasp, the formula is the same. And we fall for it, every single time. Why? Because we find ourselves in the story.
We’re the hero—before they become the hero. And by that, I mean, we’re the flawed and disadvantaged individual. If we’re honest, each one of us could give a laundry list of our faults. Whether it’s the pride of Tony Stark, Thor’s inability to relate to others, or Star Lord’s shortsightedness, we see ourselves in our heroes. We root for them to overcome the long odds, to save the day, because, in some small way, it helps us believe we can do the same.
Of course, you don’t get up in the morning and strap on your WWRRD bracelet—what would Rocket Racoon do? But I do want to be like him. I want to tell people the truth even when they don’t want to hear it. I want to overcome my outcast mentality and belong to a team. I want to trust others with my life. And, like Rocket, I love saying bad words.
The Marvel Universe is the most epic, interconnected storytelling since the Bible. Surprisingly, their storylines aren’t all that different. Flawed heroes; government scandals; epic action; personal sacrifice; greed and morality. The stories Marvel is telling aren’t new ones, they just have different faces and names.
There is, however, one notable difference—the power to overcome, to become the hero the world needs—it’s not inside us. It won’t happen by understanding our back story, or joining the Avengers, or learning the “great power-great responsibility” lesson. The power to live a life of meaning, in contrast to what my favorite superheroes might lead me to believe, doesn’t come from within, but rather, from without.
After the death and resurrection of Jesus, one of his followers, Peter, became a leader in the early church. This guy actually spent time with Jesus. He saw the miracles, heard the teachings, even walked on water. Near the end of the Bible, we find a handful of letters Peter wrote to encourage those young churches. What he says about a living a meaningful life is… well… rather simple.
Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God.
Everything about living a life of purpose and meaning won’t be found in learning to believe in ourselves, in meeting the right person, or in acquiring the superpowers of wealth or influence or popularity or happiness—it’s in knowing Jesus.
I understand how Sunday School that answer sounds. And at the same time, it’s exactly what I’ve experienced. As I’ve come to know Jesus, I’ve learned to rely on others rather than doing everything myself. I’ve learned how to practice empathy, understanding how my words and actions impact others. I’ve learned to put off my desire for immediate gratification, and it’s transforming me into a more loving and present parent. Above everything, I think Jesus’ endgame for me has been learning the importance of putting others before myself.
The Avengers’ endgame is saving the world. But your endgame doesn’t have to be that massive. Learning to be a great parent; a compassionate husband; a dedicated employee—that’s world changing. It’s an appropriate and meaningful endgame.
If you’re seeking something more from your life, I dare you throw off the easy, pop-spirituality of looking for truth inside yourself. Instead, look outside, to something larger, more powerful, and more loving. Meeting Jesus has been the endgame that has unequivocally changed my life. I believe it can be the same for you.