Recently, I wrote what I believe will be a liberating article, You are not the Hero, in which I pointed out that we unduly burden ourselves when we carry the unrealistic expectation of being the “hero” of our story. We struggle to do things that are beyond our abilities, because we believe that we are the only one who can, or will, take the needed action to rectify whatever situation we are navigating. In that article I proposed that in order for us to live in a state of peace, we must recognize that some things are simply beyond our control, and, despite our love for the people involved, fixing every problem is not our responsibility. We are not the hero.
It is possible that we can go too far in applying that concept to the way we walk out our lives. What should serve as an understanding that leads to faith in God can become an excuse for inactivity. If we do not take care, in attempting to escape anxiety, we can move to a place of acceptance or even apathy. While the serenity prayer is quite popular, the concept of accepting that which we cannot change can be misapplied to the point that we cease attempting to change things that we actually can.
In my endeavor to release us from undue burdens, the literary concept of the hero was my word of choice. A hero is one who ultimately prevails over the malevolent forces in the narrative. While in the life of the believer, this role ultimately belongs to Christ, we must understand that the hero is not the only role in the story. Hero refers to demigods and is the term for those who through their attributes and abilities overcome a task, or series of tasks, to complete a quest for good. Protagonist, which refers to the first voice heard speaking toward the chorus in a Greek drama, is the main character, the central focal point of the tale. A protagonist (main character) can be a hero, an anti-hero, not heroic at all, or even a villain. Some stories may include the hero being the protagonist, like the stories of Superman or Hercules, who is actually where we get the term hero. But there are also many stories where the protagonist is not the hero.
The classic tale of Rapunzel could be considered such a story, with the princess being the central character, but the hero being the rescuing prince. Some also consider Tolkien‘s character Bilbo Baggins to be a supporting protagonist in the Hobbit story, with Thorin Oakenshield being the hero on a quest to reclaim his kingdom. In each of these cases, the story centers around the main character, while the heroic actions are taken by another party.
While these protagonists may not be heroes in the classic sense, it is important to note that their role did not entirely abdicate them from responsibility. Rapunzel had to let down her hair and draw the prince up for their nightly rendezvous. She was also responsible for keeping his visits secret until their escape could be made, her failure to do so eventually being their undoing. Bilbo may not have been the hero and in fact may have possessed no real possibility of overcoming on his own, but he was responsible for the actions that enabled him to escape trolls, goblins, and orcs, navigate the halls of the Lonely Mountain, complete the task and journey, and eventually record the history thereof for his family, thus inspiring the journey of his nephew (cousin actually, but let’s not get too nerdy, if Frodo wants to call him uncle, that’s fine by me).
The protagonist may not be the hero. They may not have the power, ability, or wit to ever overcome their antagonist. But they still must take action. Their actions may not be the ultimate vanquishing of the darkness, but without them taking action, no progress is ever made.
In the life of the believer, you are not the ultimate giver of life, healer of wounds, or deliver from bonds. Christ is. However, this does not free you from taking action.
If you believe God is calling you to start a business, what steps are you taking to see that become a reality? If you feel that your health has gotten out of hand, what is your plan to correct it? What actions are you taking regarding relationships, calling, ministry, dreams, and goals?
You may not be the hero, but if you do not take an action, your story will always be incomplete. Today, recognize that the only person who can begin to make the changes and take the steps that are necessary in your life… is you. If you are not willing to make a plan, who is going to do it for you? If you are not willing to take action, who else is going to step in?
God is gracious and will bless. But are you providing anything upon which blessing can be bestowed? Prayer is powerful and it works. But guess what else works, work.
You are not the hero. Some things are beyond your control.
But you are the protagonist. Some things are well within your control.
Stop letting life happen to you and start happening to life.
It is absolutely time to stop being the hero, but it is also due time to start acting like the main character.
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