Lessons From Thor of Asgard (and Paul of Tarsus)
I’ve always hated roller coasters. My stomach doesn’t do well with unpredictable twists, towering heights and dramatic plunges.
That said, I absolutely loved every minute of the emotional roller coaster that was “Avengers: Endgame.” I’ve been borderline-obsessed with Marvel movies ever since the first Iron Man film (well, since the first Spiderman film, technically).
“Endgame” was a thrilling mix of emotions, with the audience weeping over death one moment, fist pumping over awesome hammer-grabbing the next, and belly laughing at Thor’s — well — belly soon after. From start to finish, “Endgame” was packed with action and laughs, but also deep and tender moments.
Speaking of Thor, I think his transformation throughout the movie (and throughout the film franchise) is one of the most interesting aspects of this story. As I was watching, a quote from the scene with Thor and his mother really hit me:
“Everyone falls short of who they’re supposed to be.”
We all fall short
As you’ll recall, near the end of “Infinity War” Thor had a chance to defeat Thanos. Right before the untimely cosmic snap, Thor digs his axe into Thanos’ chest and nearly foils his diabolical plan. Unfortunately, Thor is too late, and Thanos gasps back with a grin, “You should have gone for the head.”
Thanos snaps his finger, half of the universe vanishes, and Thor has to come to grips with his failure.
As “Endgame” begins, Thor is noticeably quiet. Gone is his charismatic leadership from the first Thor movie, as is his comedic genius from “Ragnarok.” Thor is clearly mourning, and who can blame him? At this point, his homeland is destroyed, his brother and parents are dead, and he holds himself responsible for half of the universe disintegrating.
That’s a bad day.
I’ve never come face-to-face with a purple supervillain hell-bent on destroying the universe. Powerful aliens haven’t harpooned my sibling, and my home planet is still (mostly) intact. But while I haven’t faced the exact trials Thor did, I can relate to his pain. I know what it feels like to fall short of who I’m supposed to be.
You can choose how to handle defeat
Thor was supposed to be a king. He was a god. His power was basically unmatched, and he had a pretty impressive resume of successful intergalactic battles. Yes, he was familiar with pain and loss, but this bout with Thanos was different. This was an epic fail.
This reminds me of the Apostle Paul. While Thor was bummed because of who he didn’t kill, Paul had significant regrets about who he did kill. Before becoming the heroic missionary and church planter featured in the New Testament, Paul (then called Saul) was a horrible person. He persecuted and even killed anyone who was working to spread the word about Jesus, and he took pride in that reputation. If he could have magically snapped away all the Christians in the universe, Thanos-style, he definitely would have.
Once Paul miraculously became a Christian, however, he felt the full weight of his past actions. When writing to his friend Timothy, he recounts parts of his story and refers to himself as the absolute worst sinner (1 Timothy 1:15).
Just like Thor of Asgard, Paul of Tarsus knew what it was like to fail and fall short of the man he was meant to be. You and I know that feeling, too. We’ve done things we’re not proud of — some of them intentional — and we’ve missed the mark. As much as it hurts to admit it, we’ll never become the idealistic version of ourselves that we wish we were.
Get back up
In “Endgame,” it takes Thor a while to get back on his feet. He seems to embrace his new sedentary life, wallowing in self-pity and yelling at his video game opponents over a headset on the couch. It’s not a good look for the god of thunder.
Eventually (after a pep talk from the Hulk and those powerful words from his mother), Thor gets back up, picks up his mighty hammer once more, and participates in one of the coolest good-versus-evil battle sequences of all time.
Paul dusted off his past, too. He accepted God’s forgiveness, looked ahead at the new mission God had for him, and became one of the most important heroes of the Christian faith.
Living with pain and regret is the easy route. That’s what comes naturally to most of us, and it weirdly feels good to rewind the tape and constantly replay our worst failures. We’re good at punishing ourselves and living with regret.
But wouldn’t you rather be on an awesome spaceship with Chris Pratt and a talking tree? Choosing to move past failure certainly brings its own set of challenges, but God wants you to keep fighting. He wants you to admit your weakness, and then (by His power and grace), to get up and move in a different and better direction.
Next time you find yourself time-traveling through space battling aliens, or pulling all-nighters prepping for exams, or performing well at work when no one notices, or fighting temptation to give in to sin, pick up your axe and go for the head. Fight. Don’t give up in the midst of the battle; stick it out and give that battle all you have to give.
Sometimes you’ll succeed, and sometimes you won’t. True heroes are the ones who get back up and move forward. Learn to rely on the strength that comes from the God of the universe. Get back up and join the fight. Don’t let the darkness win.
To quote Captain America: “I could do this all day.”
So can Thor.
So can you.
Copyright 2019 Matt Ehresman. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Matt Ehresman works as the creative media director at First MB Church in Wichita, Kan. He loves using video, images, words and sounds to help people think about things that matter. He is a graduate of Sterling College and Regent University and an expert on all things Mountain Dew and superheroes. He is the proud husband of Tillie and occasionally frustrated owner of Jarvis (their mini Aussie).