Reading a Spiritual Practice: Hero Stories

Our culture loves a good hero story. Star Wars, Spiderman, Superman, Batman, and every other superhero story is another addition to our need for heroes. And while I don’t have the power of the force, and I can’t fly or shoot webs from my fingers, I identify with all of these stories. Why? Because I want to discover the hero that lives in me!

There is formula for writing a good hero story and while our purpose here doesn’t include writing tips, I think that knowing the basic theory of the hero’s journey is helpful for every reader.  Joseph Campbell summarized his theory of the monomyth, or the hero’s journey, this way:

 “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder;

fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won;

the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow-man.” (Campbell, The Power of Myth, 1988)

I have read a lot of hero stories. The Harry Potter series is certainly one of my favorites! J K Rowling is a master at weaving a hero’s journey. Each individual book of the seven book series follows this pattern. And all seven books together tell a larger story of the hero, Harry’s, journey. We’ll talk more about how reading Harry Potter is a spiritual practice for me in the next post. For now, I want to focus our attention on this idea of the hero’s journey.

I believe that this monomyth, this one story that encapsulates every story, is our story of a spiritual journey. We, too, are bumbling around in an ordinary world when suddenly, God invites us to something new. And we see the world in a new way and we tingle a bit at the power we realize is all around us. The road to answer this call is harder than we thought and we wonder when darkness became so powerful. When a victory is won, it not ours to gloat over but instead to return wisdom to those who are also on this journey.

Take heart, my friends! You are not the first to walk this hard road and you do not walk it alone. There is collective wisdom that lives in Jesus followers for you to listen to and embrace. And when you discover that the call has been accomplished, remember to share your newly discovered wisdom as well. There are those who need it.

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