If you’ve had the pleasure of raising a son, you’ve undoubtedly experienced the superhero phase; a time when flowing capes on backs (towels and safety pins work too), tights and and big muscles rule the day.
Earlier today I heard a presentation on integrity and it got me thinking about superheroes, the epitome of integrity. Superheroes are the ones we look to and count on when the city has been threatened.
The presentation today took place at a local church that hosts a monthly gathering for Christian business leaders. It always includes a talk by a local pastor. Today, after telling the story of King David’s fall from grace upon being seduced by Bathsheba (from 2 Samuel, Chapter 11), Pastor Matthew St. John talked about how desperate we are for leaders of integrity; a quality that can take a lifetime to cultivate but an instant to squander.
“When integrity is shown, it’s always a contrast to the norm, to the dynamic in which you are living,” he said, noting that integrity is best displayed as we move away from self-absorption. “A life of integrity is typically a product of self-control lived out consistently. It’s the pursuit of what is noble.”
But it’s also costly. In the above-mentioned Scripture story, Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, stood as the example of integrity, but in the end, it cost him his very life.
Nevertheless, it’s a worthy pursuit, worthy dying for, even. “In your life, what ensures nobility in the world around you?” Pastor Matthew asked as a challenge.
Though heroes may be in short supply, I’ve been blessed to have stumbled onto the path of many (some largely unsung) in the course of my Christian walk. Each has influenced my faith life in some way. Though this is just a small sampling, consider it the start of my list of fellow Christians who have inspired me toward a life of integrity in recent years:
- Converts to the faith like former atheist Jennifer Fulwiler and Heather King have introduced me to insightful food for thought and helped me appreciate the gift of faith in an invigorating way. They are both thinkers who can turn any argument against the faith on its head, but always, they do so with love and compassion, because of the love and compassion that has been shown them. (Love begets love!)
- Abortion attempt survivors have begun springing up to share their stories and I have found them incredibly powerful. Sarah Smith was maimed when an abortion attempt took her twin brother but left her alive in the womb. After surviving the abortion, she was born with bilateral, congenital dislocated hips and many other physical handicaps. Her very existence is a visual victory. Others with similar stories: Melissa Ohden and Gianna Jessen. These women have given a voice to the voiceless.
- Abstinence speakers. I heard Pam Stenzel speak here in Fargo last year and won’t soon forget it, including the part where she talks about having been conceived in rape. (Hard to imagine such a vibrant person not existing.) Now, she speaks nationally and even internationally on the subject of sexual integrity (there’s that word again), addressing young people in particular with the positive message of God’s beautiful design for intimacy.
- The newly prolife. I’ve mentioned Abby Johnson before, but I can’t say enough about how inspiring her story has been to me. It took an abundance of integrity for Abby to leave her post at Planned Parenthood and cross over to the other side of the fence to begin speaking up for the child in the womb. She put her life on the line and I’m sure it wasn’t easy losing friends and so many familiar things, but she did it because she felt it was the right thing to do, and now she’s a light to others.
- Those choosing the harder path daily. “Steve Gershom,” a pseudonym, is a man who is Catholic, Gay and Feeling Fine, according to his blog. I bumped into him recently through a radio interview and am truly impressed by his commitment to live a celibate life as a man with same-sex attractions. He is doing what Pastor Matthew mentioned in his talk today, choosing self-discipline and the higher good moment by moment, against the norm.
- Finally, post-abortive women who are speaking out about the ill effects of their decision — including a local group that calls itself P.A.L.S. (post-abortive ladies). I’ve seen up close and personal their stories of healing and triumph over death. Their bravery in speaking out has helped me understand abortion and its effects on a much deeper level and empowered me to approach the subject with compassion and conviction.
Q4U: Who are the unsung heroes in your world who live lives of integrity?