Some people are big time Batman fans - they relate to the Caped Crusader and his internal struggles.
Others emulate the Man of Steel - their desire to fly and save the world is the song of their inner child.
Me? I'm fine with guys in superlative spandex wielding their prowess over the evil forces of the world, but there was always something about Iron Man that drew my interest above the rest. He doesn't have super soldier serum flowing through his veins, nor does he have green gamma ray infused mega strength when things go haywire. He's not a demi-god from another planet either - just plain old Tony Stark.
Plain, of course, until he dons the iron suit and becomes as formidable a force as anyone else in the Marvel pantheon of heroes.
A force, that is, until he meets up with Mandarin. Think Bin Laden meets The Joker and you have a modern day fictional terrorist who has the motivation and methodology to strip Iron Man down to the core of his humanity. Up to this point, Stark has been able to rely on all the power and seeming invulnerability that the suits had previously provided, but the Mandarin forces Tony into a stark reality that he has been unable or unwilling to face.
In the film series, Iron Man's armor is made from fictional material bolstered by a force field, which is why he can pretty much withstand anything thrown or launched at him without significant damage.
But in real life, his suit can be replicated with about $25 worth of Rubbermaid products…which couldn't repel a well thrown rock.
Isn't that just like you and me? We pretend we have invincible emotional armor and weapons like sarcasm and denial that can fend off the incessant barrage of destructive circumstances life brings our way. But the truth is that our attempts to be superheroes in a fallen world strip us down to the core as well. Our so called "shield" is nothing more than a cheap façade in the face of real loss.
In Iron Man 3, Tony is forced to rely on his super intellect to survive the enemy, but I'm fairly certain that this is not an option for us non genius-billionaire-philanthropist-playboy types. This is why God sometimes has to remind me that underneath my "suit" of having it all together, I am not only vulnerable, but I have only one place to turn in my weakness.
This is what happened to the Apostle Paul, who when he was known as Saul was a sort of Iron Man back in the day. He had it all going for him on every level, and his "suit" was made out of the force field of an impeccable background and the finest education. He was nearing the height of his soaring career of persecuting Christians when he met up with an unstoppable force that obliterated his defense systems:
Saul was still talking much about how he would like to kill the followers of the Lord. He went to the head religious leader. He asked for letters to be written to the Jewish places of worship in the city of Damascus. The letters were to say that if he found any men or women following the Way of Christ he might bring them to Jerusalem in chains.
He went on his way until he came near Damascus. All at once he saw a light from heaven shining around him. He fell to the ground. Then he heard a voice say, "Saul, Saul, why are you working so hard against Me?" Saul answered, "Who are You, Lord?" He said, "I am Jesus, the One Whom you are working against. You hurt yourself by trying to hurt Me." Saul was shaken and surprised. Then he said, "What do You want me to do, Lord?" The Lord said to him, "Get up! Go into the city and you will be told what to do."
Saul got up from the ground. When he opened his eyes, he saw nothing. They took him by the hand and led him to Damascus. He could not see for three days. During that time he did not eat or drink (Acts 9:1-10).
Saul was the "Iron Man" of religion, and his mission was to destroy Christians who, in his mind, were the enemy of God. But when he encountered the very presence of Jesus Christ, he experienced the destruction of his defenses. That is why years later, Paul would pen these words:
So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me (1 Corinthians 12:9).
Paul learned that, very much like Tony Stark, (and you and me), when our humanity is stripped to the core, we understand our true calling and source of strength.
In Paul's case, that day brought about a transformation that empowered him to change the world for Jesus Christ. In our case, remember that when we come to nothing, we gain everything through our Savior.
So the next time you meet up with your own personal "Mandarin" and it destroys your "suit," remember that it may just be the method God is allowing or using to help you find your true self - the person He truly made you to be. In Christ, you have an unlimited supply of power, and you are armed with the weapon of the gospel, which can liberate even the most enslaved person.
And when you reach that place - look out world…you will be an Iron Man for THE Cause of Christ!