BY LILA CARPENTER
Well, crap. Bruce put down the pencil after tallying up his scores:
Super senses: 0
X-Ray Vision: 0
Web Shooting: 0
Wall Crawling: 0
Superhuman Strength: 0
Flying Ability: 0
Control of the Elements: 0
He peeked over at Clark’s paper. Indestructibility, Superhuman Strength, and Flying Ability all had high marks. Bruce feigned stretching as he turned himself in his seat to peek at Peter’s paper: Wall Crawling, Super Sense, Web Shooting…anything cool missing from Clark’s paper had high marks on Peter’s. Now Bruce leaned over to his left and, finally, he noticed a pattern of numbers he recognized on Tony’s paper. Although he still felt bad about the boringness of his scores, he was glad to know that he was not alone.
Meanwhile, in a room not too far away, May sat in her church leadership circle dreading her approaching turn to share her results: the moment she would say that she had, in fact, failed the Spiritual Gift Test. She looked down at her highest-ranking results, noticing for the umpteenth time that there was nothing spiritual about them. Encouragement? What’s spiritual about that? A poodle can be encouraging. And hospitality? Wonderful, I’m the Martha Stewart of Christianity. May’s anxiety rose as next to her Jason announced his spiritual gifts, ones that he probably shared with Jesus himself. She was unsure exactly what that might be, but she was positive it would be better than encouragement.
The world of superheroes is not so different from our world. When the spider bit Peter Parker, Peter did not receive a list from which he could choose his favorite powers. Likewise, spiritual gifts are not ours to pick, choose, and assign. They are exactly what the phrase says: gifts. We do not get to offer input. “It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have” (1 Cor. 12:11 NLT). God is our Stan Lee, creating each one of us with a set of gifts necessary for our story.
Peter left the meeting a little disappointed. Despite the helpfulness of web-shooting, jealousy bubbled for Clark’s flying ability. This is where his mind was when his thoughts were disrupted by a cry of distress. It was distant, but his acute senses heard it clearly. Darting behind a building, he ripped off his clothes and pulled on his mask. Spider-Man’s webs shot out, lifting him up into the metal forest of New York. Mid–swing, Spider-Man made a decision. If Clark can do it, then why can’t I? Instead of propelling himself forward with another web, he decided to fly weblessly. And he did. All the way to the ground.
The next day, May’s thoughts were still on the Spiritual Gift Test. She was so distracted that when it was her turn at bat, she did not even see the ball fly by. Three times. She struck out. Defeated, she went back to the dugout and was soon joined by Deborah, who was feeling guilty about missing an easy pop fly. Just as May was about to playfully bump her arm and say, “Hey, it’s okay. You’ll get the next one,” a thought popped into her head. This is it. I don’t have to take what’s given to me. If Jason can be a leader, I can be a leader. So instead of offering an encouraging word, May stood up on the bench, bumped her head, realized the dugout was too short to stand on benches, climbed back down, and started yelling at her team from the dugout floor: They needed to play better. They needed to stop sucking. They needed to get their act together. They needed to quit letting everyone else down. They needed to win. Deborah started to cry.
When we try to use gifts that are not ours, the results can be disastrous. Sometimes this attempt is to compensate for what we think is a weak or inconsequential spiritual gift. This fallacious assumption can lead to the creation of a Picasso-esque Body of Christ. God created us to compliment and complete each other in His Body: “if the whole body were an eye, how would you hear?” (1 Cor. 12:17 NLT). If everybody were leaders, who would follow? If all the Justice League members were Supermans, what would happen in a kryptonite meteor shower?
Tony entered his huge mansion and tromped downstairs towards all his toys. His body had no hidden talents—nothing would shoot out of his wrists if he inverted “I Love You” sign language. Like he would be caught dead signing “I love you” anyways. Still, he would not complain if granted invisibility, flying, x-ray vision, or really anything else—not all superpowers required girly hand signals. What makes me so undeserving of something cool? He pushed the thought from his mind. Just do what you do best, Tony. The shiny, stainless steel tool kits rose out of the center of the table at the press of a button. He looked over his tools—his closest friends—hoping for some inspiration. He got it. Another button, this time accompanied by a fourteen-digit code code, and a wall began turning. Tony admired his man-sized iron suit as the wall slowly rotated towards him. A machine moved the suit to his table, and Tony started to work.
May couldn’t understand why Shakira’s voice was in her ear when only a moment before she had been walking on the beach with Matt Damon. Oh. She picked up her phone blasting “My Hips Don’t Lie” from beside her bed and muttered a groggy response. What time is it? Her concern about the time and the disappointment about losing Matt Damon vanished when she heard the voice on the other end. “Can I come over? Josh broke up with me. He said he found someone better. Please let me come over. I don’t know what to do.” May could not answer affirmatively quickly enough, and as soon as they hung up, she was running around the apartment—making coffee and hot chocolate so Gabby would have a choice, ensuring there was plenty of room on the bed, the couch, and anywhere else she might want to sit, pulling out movies that might help as distraction. She was just grabbing the chocolate ice cream and spoons when there was a knock at the door. Gabby practically fell from the doorway into May’s arms. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know where else to go. I can’t be alone. I’m sorry. You’re the only one I could come to. You’re the only one.” May held Gabby as she sobbed. Maybe it’s okay I’m not a leader.
We do our best work—the work God intended for us to do—when we are using the gifts He intended us for. Though Tony considers his super-intelligence as lesser than the abilities of his co-heroes, it is the utilization of this seemingly lesser gift that enables him to be an awesome superhero. Similarly, “some parts of the body [of Christ] that seem the weakest and least important are actually the most necessary” (1 Cor. 12:22 NLT), meaning that the spiritual gifts we may think are unimportant can be some of the most valuable. When a friend needs encouragement, the last thing on her mind is your inability to speak in tongues.
Clark lives in Metropolis because he knows that his powers would be wasted flying around Smallville. Tony leaves his profitable career inventing weaponry to better serve those who need his gifts. Instead of spending his time lounging around his ridiculously nice apartment, Bruce risks his life nightly to protect Gotham City. As Spider-Man’s uncle so eloquently puts it: “With great power comes great responsibility.” These superheroes realize that they have a responsibility to use their gifts to help more than just themselves. The same rings true for us. Paul states the purpose of these gifts very clearly in his letter to the Corinthians: “A spiritual gift was given to each of us so that we can help each other” (1 Cor. 12:7 NLT). Superheroes are at their best when they are using their gifts to help others. So, too, are we.