As I wrote about in the personal accountability series with Thor, Loki and Odin, personal accountability and integrity are key elements in our spiritual journey. If we do not hold ourselves accountable, Spirit will…
Spider-man saved the day in Washington, DC saving his friends. He rose to new heights in his school. Spider-man mania spread around, going to Peter’s head a bit.
So much so, that he decides he will skip his Spanish quiz because he needs to catch the bad guys. He goes against the advice of his friend, Ned, and attempts to skip out, getting caught by the Principle and sent to detection where he has to listen to a video by Captain America:
Captain America: So you got detention You screwed up. You know what you did was wrong. How are you going to make things right?….We all know what is right. We all know what is wrong.
Peter gets up and leaves detention, skipping out on his punishment. He decides to keep looking for the bad guys.
Once Peter is home and sure Aunt May is not around, he puts on his spider-mask to talk with Karen.
Spider-man: Hey Karen, what’s up?
Karen: Hey Peter, how was your Spanish quiz?
I love that the first question Karen (Suit Lady, the voice of Spider-man’s spider-suit) asks is about Peter’s Spanish quiz. It is a question to Peter about accountability. Is he really doing the right thing? Is he fulfilling the responsibilities in his life?
You may be thinking, of course he is. He is working on catching the bad guys. But the thing is, Tony Stark (IronMan) has already told Peter to drop this, that he will take care of it. Peter wants to prove himself as a super-hero, that is why he is pushing so hard to find the bad guys.
In doing so, in pushing to prove himself, he is ignoring his responsibilities as a high school student. He skipped out on the Decathlon in Washington, DC. Peter is ignoring his school work, skipping school. He is not holding integrity and Karen is reminding him of that.
The Consequences for Not Standing in Integrity:
In a few scenes, Peter attempts to take on the bad guys. It is out of his league. At some level he knows it. At another level he wants to prove himself, prove that he can do what adults do. He ends up putting everyone at risk, nearly causing a catastrophic events on a ferry boat. Iron Man comes and saves the day.
This is a hard lesson for Peter to learn. He crushes his heart as he has to acknowledge what he has done. Tony Stark holds Peter accountable for his actions:
Tony: I told you to stay away. Instead, you hacked a multi-million dollar suit so you could sneak around behind my back doing the ONE thing I told you not to do.
Peter, struggling with his feelings, goes on a rant about Mr Stark not listening to him, about how he would have had to do what he did if only someone would listen.
Tony: I did listen. Who do you think called the FBI? I was the only one who believed in you… What if somebody had died tonight? Different story because that would have been on you. And if you died, I feel like that’s on me. I don’t need that on my conscience.
Peter: I’m sorry.
Tony: Sorry doesn’t cut it.
Peter: I understand. I just wanted to be like you.
Tony: And I wanted you to be better. Okay, I’m going to need the suit back.
Peter: For how long?
Peter: Please, you don’t understand. This is all I have. I’m nothing without this suit.
Tony: If you are nothing without this suit then you shouldn’t have it. Okay?
Spirit Calls us to Accountability:
When we are not in our integrity, when we do not hold ourselves accountable for our actions, Spirit calls us out.
It can feel harsh, sometimes as harsh as the conversation between Peter and Tony Stark.
Other times, it can be gentle, like the beginning of the conversation with Karen (Suit Lady) and her question about Peter’s Spanish test.
We like to ignore this aspect of God and move directly to the experience of mercy and grace. However, our sacred texts do not ignore the Tough-Love, Wrathful God.
“Theologian James Cone, writes, “Most theological treatments of God’s love fail to place the proper emphasis on God’s wrath, suggesting that love is completely self-giving without any demand for obedience. Bonhoeffer called this ‘cheap grace.’” God’s love demands righteousness, and breaches of God’s call to justice and love cause God grief…. God is not indifferent to human suffering, oppression, and injustice. Cone goes on: “The wrath of God is the love of God in regard to the forces opposed to liberation of the oppressed.” God’s judgment is a manifestation of relationship with a living God, a God of passion who deeply cares.” (http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3700)
Tony Stark’s harsh disciplinary conversation with Peter shows that he cares and that he expects Peter to follow his mentoring/guidance.
Yes, there is an experience of grace found in Spirit’s love for us. But first, we need to have the harsh accountability conversation — the tough love moment that asks us to be better than what we just did. It does not feel good. But think about those times when you experienced that, did it not change you for the better? Did you not work hard to be a better person? Did you not do want you needed to regain the trust of whomever you harmed?
Because your behavior was called out, did you work hard not to repeat that same experience? Did you learn to gage your abilities and skills more aptly?
Jesus and Me
A few years ago, when I was in deep discernment about a specific question, I was struggling with what to do. I did a shamanic journey (very similar to Prayer of the Imagination) to Jesus, my Teacher. I journeyed to meet him. He was at a river bend on an expanse of grass.
Usually when we meet, we would embrace. I would feel this deep gentleness and fun adventurous energy emanating from him. This time, I arrived and knew there would be no embrace. There was this wall of anger emanating from him. He was not happy with me!
Jesus began. Usually I began by asking my question. But he was not in the mood to hear what I came for. He already knew. Jesus basically told me off that journey. I met the tough love, holding me accountable side of him I had not met before. He asked why I kept banging my head up against the same wall? Why would I not follow all the guidance he had given me before? Why keep repeating the same question? He told me I already knew what I needed to do, I was just not doing it. He was done with that question. When I was ready to face that, he would be here to guide me and help me heal.
It did not feel good. I stood there looking at him. Each sentence he spoke tore at my heart. Each word destroyed the wall I had put up around me so that I did not have to face my deepest fears. Although it did not feel good, there was never a moment when I questioned his love, grace, and mercy toward me. I knew they were there. I knew that was why he was being tough-love Jesus.
I think I cried the rest of that day. The tears washed away that wall he ripped down. When I woke the next day, I changed direction. I shifted by perspective and began the work I needed to do. When I stepped back into integrity, the answers I was seeking were already there. Jesus knew it. He called that out.
God knows and trusts that we will change our behavior. God knows and trusts that we will work hard to be trustworthy. Because God knows and trusts that, God offers us grace and mercy.
When we are not in our integrity, it is Spirit’s job to call us to accountability, and once we step back into alignment with Spirit’s heart, to offer us deep grace, mercy and unconditional Love.