Where’s My Cool Iron Suit – Following Jesus when You Feel Vulnerable

Ahh, the life of a Christian writer.

In the wake of my father’s death four short weeks ago, I’ve been blind-sided by unprecedented family upheaval on top of the fresh grief. All this in the midst of speaking and promotion for my new book, The Art of Hard Conversations. It’s left me feeling exposed and vulnerable and been a challenge to my dearly held belief that we should rely on God to be our protector, not depend on our own sorry defenses.

Twice, people in anger and unkindness have said to me, “I thought you were supposed to love hard conversations.” Ouch. and Ouch, again. And a dear church friend, trying to comfort me as I was weeping and shaking said, “Wait, you must have written about facing times like this in your books. Can’t you read one of them yourself?” That actually made me laugh.

And, I took his advice. With all the hoopla this weekend about the release of the new Avengers movie (which I cannot wait to see), I turned to a chapter in my first book, Running from a Crazy Man (and other adventures traveling with Jesus), inspired by Iron Man. And what do you know? God knew it was exactly what I needed to hear.

This painful, agonizing, broken vulnerability I’m experiencing is precisely the material God will use – eventually – for good and for His glory. He will provide me the strength to resist defenses of my own design and one day, it will simply be the memory of a spiritual battle I survived by His grace and on His powerful loving back – not through my own resources.

So, allow me to share – in honor of the Avengers and my own time revisiting vulnerability –  this chapter from Running from a Crazy Man:

Where’s My Cool Iron Suit? Following Jesus When You Feel Vulnerable

We can learn a lot about God at the movies. For example, I learned that I want to be invulnerable. Like Iron Man.

Have you seen the first movie in the series? While I enjoyed the comic-book-hero story and appreciated Robert Downey Jr., what I really liked was the iron suit (which is actually a gold-titanium alloy).

In Iron Man, Tony Stark, genius and adult orphan owner of Stark Industries, is captured by terrorists and locked in a lab inside a cave. He’s supposed to assemble a weapon of mass destruction for the enemy, but instead, despite the primitive conditions, he invents an iron suit that makes him invulnerable to any attack.

I want that suit. If it existed, I’d invest in several.

First, I’d get one for each of my kids. The suit would make them easy to spot in a crowd, keep them safe in the event of fire or car crash, and protect them from bad guys and evil insurgents (should that ever become a problem in our small Rhode Island town).

I’d also have my husband fitted for one. It’s a jungle out there, and every man trying to support a family and live for Christ has to be a superhero these days. So cool if he could fight crime too! I’ll bet that’s excellent stress relief.

“What happened on the way home from work, dear?”

“Oh, not much. Wait! I did foil Lex Luther’s plot to take a daycare center hostage, but other than that, same old-same old.”

Next, I’d make each of my parents wear one, especially when my dad is fighting fires and when my mother is praying (both front line duties).

Of course, I’d want one too. Because people are mean. The world is dangerous. And vulnerability as a lifestyle leaves much to be desired.

As I watched the movie, it occurred to me that God could have provided Christians with cool iron suits. When you think about it, God’s a better inventor than Tony Stark, for sure (especially since Stark is fictional and God’s not). So He could have done it, and I imagine it would have all kinds of advantages.

First, obviously, Christians would be remarkably easy to identify because we would be the ones in amazingly cool, shiny flying suits that shoot fire at will. Wouldn’t that be a nifty effect for punctuating evangelistic conversations?

Second, people probably would be a lot nicer to us because we would be so much bigger, glossier, and able to crush them with our fists—I mean, protect them, protect them with our fists.

Third, people would certainly listen to us more if we had just saved them from extreme danger, flown in from the sky like rocket men, or fought off gangs with the flick of our wrists. Right? Certainly, you can see the upside of this idea too. Invulnerability would have been my choice if I were God.

But nooooo. Does He give us the excellent, cool, invulnerable iron man suits? No.

The Creator of all things with an infinite imagination decides that we should be—vulnerable.

In a gritty, dark, dangerous world full of mean, insensitive, messy people, He thinks we should be as vulnerable as, well, as babes in a manger. He’s so serious about this that if we have managed to develop some protection—like, say, hardening our hearts to the texture of stone—well, He trades our hearts of stone for hearts of flesh.

He seems obsessed with this whole vulnerable-human concept. Rather than facing a hardened, dangerous, evil world with protective armor, God’s church stands equipped with fleshy, bleeding, weeping, open hearts. What’s up with that?

To really drive home His point, God does the unimaginable. He puts Himself inside one of these vulnerable human suits and lives right beside us—open, weeping, bleeding, and real.

Hard to argue with a God who’s that committed to a concept.

Apparently, despite the marketing to the contrary, we don’t need no stinkin’ heroes. So maybe we should stop trying to be heroes. Obviously, the whole iron suit thing is only a good idea for the big screen.

What we need, according to Jesus, is other humans—faltering, unguarded, broken, flesh-and-blood, vulnerable humans, and the God who died to save them. It’s not an idea some eccentric fictional scientist dreamed up in a lab. It was conceived in the open heart of a God who knows that true strength originates in love.

Ponder the Perplexities:

Superheroes, films, comic books, and television shows reveal much about our longings as humans. We want to be strong and invulnerable— for good reason. But God sees things from a different perspective, one that often frustrates His followers.

Imagine sitting in an ancient castle listening to armies descend and reading Proverbs 16:32: Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. That might not be how you saw it at the moment, but the proverb tells eternal truth while flying arrows only carry the word of the day on their stone tips. Their flames will be extinguished and forgotten tomorrow. Other flames will burn forever.

Best for us to cultivate a godly perspective now. If God shakes His head to the iron suit but gives a nod to a vulnerable heart, we trust Him, not our own understanding.

Remember: To drive His point home, God does something unimaginable. He puts Himself inside one of these vulnerable human suits and lives right beside us—open, weeping, bleeding, and real. Hard to argue with a God who’s that committed to a concept.

Thank you all for your prayers for my family as we adjust to our “new normal.” I love meeting as  many of my readers as I can, so be sure to check the schedule on my website for a time when I’ll be near you. Or, message me and I’m happy to arrange a visit!

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6 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Terry Biehl says:

    Hi! I am so sorry that people are not understanding your grief at the loss of your Dad. My Dad was my hero, he was always there for me and while he was not perfect, he knew that as a visually impaired child I would need his care and understanding. It took months for me to even feel like being with people again. I will pray that you will have understanding people and time to grieve.

  2. Margie l Barbieri says:

    Dear Lori, know our LORD is by your side, and it seems like death of a loved one brings out the real person in some people. Your in my prayers, keep up your wonderful work for our LORD.

  3. Diane McElwain says:

    We haven’t seen the movie yet, Lori, but we love the Avengers. Thank you for your serious and humorous words. I admit Iron Man is my favorite. May God protect your heart as you grieve your father.

  4. Patty Doren says:

    I so needed this today. Thank you.

  5. Anonymous says:

    My deepest sympathy to you and your family. No mere words can stem the loss you are feeling and it’s OK to mourn, those we have loved dearly as you did your father.

  6. Lesley says:

    Hi Lori,
    I recently came across a Christian writer/blogger/podcaster/lecturer etc by the name of Kate Bowler who can be found at KateBowler.com. She has the courage to share her own life & interviews others as to how they individually dealt with grief , mourning & loss. Not just book type grief but the raw, deep gut pain experienced. They also shared some scenarios that they disliked & some that helped. Refreshingly real.
    I appreciate that you come across as authentically real & willing to be vulnerable, & to rock the average christian from complacency.
    Thanks.