At what cost do we become heroines?

What is the cost of laying ones life down to achieve the impossible? To reap a reward far greater than the riches and treasures of this world? To walk, ahead of the crowd, and be the first to proudly scale a mountain of insurmountable difficulty and height; a mountain to which others said “no,” a mountain no one else would climb?

Any novelist will tell you a story cannot be written without conflict. A main character destined to achieve heroism cannot do so without first being marked by pain, conflict or tragedy. An event must first occur that causes such unequivocal challenge the person is shaken, to the very marrow of their bones, into action. And so adventure begins, and we follow the exhilarating stories of our fictional heroes (or anti-heroes) through their looping trails of process, struggle, realization, and victory. When our favorite characters finally achieve the great and glorious task they were so ardently pursuing, when they defeat the evil set against them and conquer the pitfalls welled deep within themselves, we happily cheer and applaud as if the victory was our own. We love our characters, in whatever form of media, who triumph over every obstacle and prove the underdog can, indeed, win. We idolize characters who prove to us that, even for normal, seemingly mediocre people, greatness is possible.

Our fervent love for storytelling reveals within humanity a thirst for heroism. We gravitate towards fictional heroes of all shapes and sizes, and in the same fashion we idolize real people in history who have emulated achievement of catastrophic proportions, the size of which can only be classified in our minds as heroic. We look at these giants In the world and in the faith, and so often we harbor in our hearts a hope to one day be, if not them incarnate, at least like them.

We hunger to be heroes and heroines. We seek them out to model ourselves after their lives. Our desires for role models are healthy.

But, so often, we gaze longingly at our leaders yet we do not see their pain. We do not see the tragedies that bore their need to rise above, victorious. We do not know the loss, the death, the tragedy, or the struggles they have faced. We do not share in their conflict or their battles–we see only the aftermath, and oh, how it appeals to us and makes us long for our own mountaintop moment.

There are times we covet them their stories and their positions, or we simply long for the moment we, too, will be acknowledged as heroines.

But again, I ask–at what cost does heroism come?

Do we recognize, when we ask for the honor and privilege of bearing a journey to heroism, what we will lose to gain it? Do we realize what greatness will cost, or understand that to be marked and set apart, to be driven to achieve the impossible, we will face tragedy that demands a response? Do we know our pain that will push us to heroism, and are we prepared to sacrifice in order to walk that path?

We flock to our heroes and drink in their stories of resilience, of perseverance and prayer spent in the quiet, secret places of their lives; we believe it all to be good history.

And it is.

The history we hear about is good. And true. And honest. It is raw and necessary. But these histories are made so because of redemption–not because they were inherently easy, or came without sacrifice.

Before these people became our heroes, they were first brought to their knees by the result of a tragedy outside of their control, or by feeling a pain and a longing so deeply wrought within them they were moved into action. In love, they bore scars of suffering and laid down their life to gain freedom and victory, both personally and publicly. They have journeyed, sometimes for years, before becoming the heroes who stand before us, leading lives of wonder and triumph.

If anyone embodies unimaginable sacrifice that births redemption and heroism, it is Jesus. The man who literally gave His life to save the world and bring us into right relationship. It was Jesus who set the ultimate example, Jesus who said, “Whoever seeks his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” It is because of Jesus the injustices we face will yield victory and freedom. It is because of Jesus we are able to rise on the other side of our hardships as heroes and heroines.

Because of Jesus, our pain and tragedies spur us onward so we might bear witness and testimony to victory. Jesus gave us the gift of redemption: the gift of a life that can be lost so eternal life might be gained.

Though that reward is instantaneous when we profess our readiness and willingness to the King of all Kings, the immediate results are not always what we ask for.

It still remains that, in this life, tragedy and conflict are often the birthing place of heroes. Circumstances occur that reveal in our hearts the burden and passion to push onward towards the achievement of something greater than ourselves. Love is what carries us to our victories, and love bears the weight of our crosses as we co-labor towards our ultimate prize. It is only through loving deeply we can even feel the kind of pain that brings compassion and hope, that we can be courageous enough to reach for redemption.

Redemption transforms our sacrifices into something more precious than gold or silver, as is it is the ultimate gift Jesus can give. And even in the rejoicing of redemption we must remember that it counts for naught without there first being a pain or wrong-standing that must be righted. Redemption is only necessary if there is injustice and wrong-doing, if there is brokenness that must be made whole. And it is beautiful, raw, honest, and true to journey, each one of us, through this process. He is worthy to receive it all, to trade in our sorrows for joy. He is worthy of sacrifice, worthy to bring us into heroism alongside Him, powerful and free.

A hero without the power of redemption and the history to match it is only a person with ambition and achievement. Likewise, the coveting of a persons history and position, even if their life is deserving of high honor, is a wrongly placed desire for the pain, sacrifice and redemption that made them who they are.

Each and every one of us has the opportunity to enter into redemption and heroism within our lifetimes. But do we know the cost of our heroism? Are we at peace with the sacrifice we will individually give, be it time, pain, or physical comfort, to achieve the grand ending of our stories? Do we truly understand and acknowledge the loss others have endured to give us the platforms we stand on today? Do we recognize the honor present in that choice?

Ultimately, do we celebrate others rightly for their heroism, and do we open our hearts to be celebrated into heroic deeds, ourselves?

Our pain and our tragedies deserve to be seen, our burdens deserve to be felt. Our stories deserve to be heard, to be transformed into redemption to bring others into freedom. These are acts of heroism: living transparently, choosing to flourish and love in the midst of uncontrollable circumstances.

If we are ever to enter into our fullness, we cannot confuse where heroism begins. The heroic deed does not come from standing on the mountaintop of a journey others could not make: our personal journeys are meant for none to walk but ourselves. The heroic deed, instead, is born with the vision of the proverbial mountain in the distance, and acknowledgement of the sacrifice it will take to crest its peak. Heroism is in feeling where you are so deeply that the pain, longing and love therein crescendo in a symphony of sorts within your soul, when you surrender fully to whatever the journey before you will entail.

Heroism is in the honor of saying yes, and in that yes, finding freedom that will carry you into victory. It is in walking the road set before you and allowing the rawness of your experiences to move you, to shape you. To see the beauty of others’ suffering and to stoop alongside them, taking up their hands with pride to help them walk. Heroism is allowing your life to shine with honor, to be transformed, and to allow your transformation to usher others into healing along the way.

So do we know the cost at which our heroism comes? For that kind of heroism, the only true heroism, will cost everything. The heroic deed is born only in a moment, but to achieve heroism is the process of a lifetime, full of pain and joy, full of triumphs and losses. But what reward to count it all lost and, as you journey, gain Life.