Is that song running through your mind now? I hope so. It is one of the catchiest sitcom theme tunes of all time. Whether you watched the show or not, you knew that song.
So, what’s the relevance?
The other day, I received some compliments from a blogger, who referred to me as “superdad.” Well, I knew immediately that title didn’t fit. Just ask my teenage son, and he will give you a list a mile long of my un-superness (yes, I know that’s not a real word) qualities. Now, ask my dog, and he might agree with the blogger; although, he seems indiscriminate as to whom he finds to be super. Anyone who walks out of the room and back in a few minutes later is greeted like the person traveled to Paris, France and back, by mule, with pockets full of steak. But let’s not get distracted.
As I reflected on the flattering “superdad” comment, Ralph Hinkley immediately popped into my head, along with the mind-monopolizing theme tune, “Believe It or Not.”
For those too young for the privilege of watching first runs of the show–The Greatest American Hero was a sitcom in the early ’80s about a klutzy high school teacher named Ralph Hinkley, who was given a superhero suit by aliens. Ralph quickly lost the instruction manual and was forced to harness the powers of the suit on his own, often with comedic results. Crash landings, fires, wall collisions, and clumsy flying were the norm. At the aliens’ instruction, Ralph teamed up with an FBI agent and began fighting crime in less than super fashion.
And yet, despite all of Ralph’s faults, fumbling along with the superhero powers he didn’t yet know how to use, and causing some damage along the way, Ralph always ended up accomplishing some good in the end.
Now, if I am a “superdad,” then I am “super” in the line of Ralph Hinkley–the klutzy, ill-prepared, wobbly flying, and reluctant superhero, who must learn to use his powers by trial and error.
That description suits (ahem) me well.
Many days I feel like a klutzy dad who has been given incredible superhero potential along with a detailed instruction manual from God, and yet, somehow, I am not quite able to harness the powers of the suit. I have all the tools at my disposal, yet they feel awkward in my hands or I haven’t discovered them yet. I fly wobbly and crash into walls.
But despite me, God accomplishes good in the end.
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.
God is the Potter, and we are clay in His hands.
Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.
I am reminded that God doesn’t use perfect vessels. To the contrary, He uses marred and imperfect vessels, and He shapes them into “vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.” Romans 9:23. Even King David was marred and imperfect, and yet God described David as a man after God’s own heart:
After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.”
As you may recall, David spied on Bathsheba, a married woman, while she bathed, committed adultery with her, and then conspired for the murder of her husband so that he could then marry her. 2 Samuel 11. This is just one event in David’s imperfect life, and yet God still described him as a man after God’s own heart. And, of course, God chose David’s line into which Jesus would be born.
My point here is that we all fly wobbly. We are all marred and imperfect. God doesn’t use perfect vessels, because there are no perfect vessels (other than Jesus). God instructs us to plant and water, and He promises that He will make things grow.
So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
1 Corinthians 3:7-9.
So, I pull on my Greatest American Hero supersuit, my armor of God if you will (Ephesians 6:11), and fumble into parenting and marriage like the klutzy superhero of the ’80s, with confidence that God will make things grow, despite my wobbly flight pattern, crashing into walls, and embarrassing landings.
My jobs are to teach my children about Jesus and His Word (plant) and build for them a proper foundation, which is Christ (water). Planting and watering require that I follow Jesus and obey His commands, and teach my children to do the same. I am wholly incapable of making my children holy or righteous. That alone belongs to God, who makes things grow by His Holy Spirit. My job is to show my children the path of righteousness, but God alone is the One who will open their eyes to it and guide them along it (make things grow).
And I have peace that I cannot parent perfectly. I am an imperfect vessel. I am Ralph Hinkley. But God has my household in His hands. He is standing at the potter’s wheel, expertly removing our blemishes. In this, parents stand on the promises of God:
Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
Through eternal ages let His praises ring,
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.
Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
I’m standing on the promises of God.
–Standing on the Promises, Russell K. Carter, pub. 1886.