While Two-Face offered us a great reflection on what it is like to live a double life or maybe to live a morality of “balancing the scales,” there is another Batman villain who offers us a whole new perspective.
“See, I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve.”
When I was little my sisters put make-up on my face. I know, I know, we were crazy kids!
Seriously though, as tame as them putting make-up on me was, I knew that I wasn’t a girl. So I knew I didn’t want to put make-up on, because that is what my sisters did. Thus, in order to put make-up on me (and have me cooperate) they sold me a line about getting dressed up like the Joker, which instantly became better in my mind*. Little did I know, I was ahead of the curve.
“If I weren’t crazy I’d be insane.”
Now the Joker might seem like an extreme case to examine here, but I believe that he truly captures a human reality. We are tempted to embrace our own fallen attraction to sin and selfishness as our identity. If we are to define sanity as: ‘seeing things as they really are’, then to make our sin our identity is INSANE! It is just as ludicrous and ugly as the Joker, and yet we laugh about it, we relish in it.
Now I can’t go much further without going into examples and details, otherwise I’ll just be discarded as ranting. In my own experience I remember my days of uttering the phrase, “I might be going to Hell, but I’m going to have fun on the way down.” Or I’ve seen people celebrate their ability to be a complete jerk to another human being (often using other less appealing words to describe their behavior). And then we might even go so far as to say, “Yeah, I’m that way, but at least I know it.”
“Behind all the storm and batarang, you’re just a little boy in a playsuit crying for mommy and daddy. It’d be funny if it weren’t so pathetic…… Oh, what the heck, I’ll laugh anyway! HA! HA! HA! HA! HAAAA!”
I say all of this from my own experiences of participating in it. Participating in finding joy in another person’s sorrow and hardship, sometimes even a hardship that I contributed to. When I was in High School we had a tradition called ‘the Spencer Show.’ It was a willful act of bullying against the Middle School students who walked our same halls. The goal was to push them (physically, verbally, and emotionally) and see how they reacted to being mistreated. Then belittle them even more by laughing as they rightly reacted to the injustice being done to them.
Essentially, in high school, my friends and I were the Joker.
Beyond our bullying, we practically identified ourselves by our vices. Among each other, we embraced that false identity and fostered a mask of depravity that we all put on so that no one thought the other had a conscience.
Just as the Joker tells lie after lie about what got him to where he is, we could lie with the best of them about why we acted as we did. We could even lie to ourselves that we weren’t doing anything wrong. We were making up our own reality, we were insane. Occasionally, I’d suspect my insanity and try to change it, only to fall back in one way or another.
My insanity continued through college. It took different forms and had different foci, but it certainly didn’t end. As a matter of fact, it was in college that I really saw the madhouse all around me. Several times throughout my college career I again thought I could change myself, but as Albert Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again; expecting different results.” It was a fight I could not win on my own.
“Out of the darkness… comes the Knight.”
My insanity followed me out of college and into a really dark place. A night of full on Joker-ness. I might as well have pulled out my sisters’ make-up so that they could dress me up as the Joker again, because I’m certain I would have rather been him than myself. I would have rather been the sum total of temptations and depravity than know that somewhere deep inside my self-worth was flooding into a vacuum of hypocrisy and unfulfilled desire.
It was out of this darkness that my conversion really began. Not a conversion in the sense of me changing myself, but a conversion where I slowly began to be open to someone else transforming me. I finally stopped trying to create my own identity and instead started seeking out who I was all along. Who was the neglected me that I starved as I chased after every temptation?
“Uhh, you… You just couldn’t let me go, could you?”
That was it. That was the time that Christ was waiting for in order to remind me who I am.
I am made in the image and likeness of God.
I am a loved sinner, in that order.
I am redeemed and I’m being transformed.
And all of that finds its culmination in the fact that I am a prodigal son.
But a reminder, my identity is not that I’m prodigal, but rather that I am a son.
When we encounter the Risen Christ, He looks at us in the eye and asks:
“Do you wanna know how I got these scars?”
“My Father is a good and gracious God, who always planned for you to be part of our family. As your older brother I was sent to fight the battle against temptation and sin that you couldn’t win by yourself. I won that fight so that you could be set free from slavery. I knew that you were worth it so now I carry these scars. They are your birthright. Come home and be with the family. I’ll show you the way, if only you’ll be my disciple.”
*Note: There may be a future blog post coming about how it seems a little twisted to prefer to act like the Joker instead of my sisters…