I Don’t Want to Be Your Hero

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I saw Boyhood while #RunningTo took me to a coffee shop in High Point, North Carolina. I watched all 166 minutes of it on my laptop. I’m sure the baristas were wondering what in the world was with that bearded wanderer who kept erupting into teary hysterics.

I could write a dozen blog posts about the film itself — the simplistic plot, the real-life aging of all the actors, and comparisons to my own boyhood. Maybe someday I’ll write those other blog posts.

Today I want to focus on my favorite scene from the movie. The part where an 18-year-old Mason saddles into his blue pickup truck and goes on a road trip. He hits the road for college, leaving behind his chaotic family life in search of new horizons at college.

It is a long drive into the dusty mountains backed by an anthem about heroes.

Throughout my nine months on the road, I’ll be honest, I felt like something of a hero. For the first time in my life, I felt like I’d conquered something, and other people were looking up, pointing at my triumphant silhouette.

I was living many people’s dreams, traveling all over. I was doing something few people ever do, leaving behind normalcy for this unpredictable life on the road.

What’s more, I was connecting with my readers — you guys — across all corners of this country and even some corners of that country to the north. I was fielding Facebook messages and emails left and right. I was an event to be anticipated, a marked box on people’s kitchen calendars.

And what’s even more, I was meeting other people with similar struggles. I write about struggle in abundance, after all. In many cases I was these strugglers’ only confidant, and several actually uttered the word “celebrity” in my presence. I felt so humbled to walk into their story.

Ever since my road trip ended, though, I’ve felt less like a hero and more like a zero — maybe more accurately a two or a three, but that doesn’t rhyme. Point is, I haven’t felt very heroic the last couple months.

I feel cut adrift most days. I feel purposeless. I lose hope. I give into temptation.

I still struggle.

By the end of Boyhood, Mason needed what all of us need from time to time. A fresh start. A new story. A chance to forge a new destiny with bold mountainous scenery.

A chance not to be someone else’s hero, but an equal.

It’s hard being the hero. It’s hard conquering sin and struggle and pain and loss.

Sometimes I figure stuff out, and I try to give God the glory.

But sometimes I don’t know the way out. Sometimes I get so effing lost, and sometimes I just want to run and hide from God. Run and hide from you all.

It was a privilege meeting so many of you from coast to coast. To inspire you amid your own stories of struggle. Months after crossing my road trip’s finish line, I remain in awe that God would use my story to inspire yours. I’ll never need another ounce of proof for God’s existence than that.

I’ll be your hero sometimes.

But I need you all to know that I don’t have this figured out yet. I still search. I stumble. I mess up. Now that I’ve stopped road-tripping, I wonder what I’m doing or where I’m going.

Sometimes I just wanna hop in a pickup and run away and search and fight and walk with everyone else.

I hope you’ll let me go.

I hope you’ll search and fight and walk with me.

  • naturgesetz

    I love you, bro.

    You don’t have to be a hero to be special. You don’t have to be perfect to be special. You dan’t have to be unusual to be special. You’re special. You’re special whether you stay in Charlotte or you leave.

    “I feel cut adrift most days. I feel purposeless. I lose hope. I give into temptation.

    I still struggle.”

    Interesting that you feel cut adrift when staying put (but presumably not when “running”). Interesting that you feel purposeless now, but apparently not when traveling.

    As I’ve said, I know that there have always been people who, like you, couldn’t bear to stay permanently in one place. I don’t understand it, though (like a gay guy who doesn’t understand how straight guys find women attractive or a straight guy who doesn’t understand how gay guys find men attractive). So I make the mistake of encouraging you to try to stay put for a while.

    At any rate, by now you know that there isn’t a place which will give you hope or a sense of purpose, that will put an end to temptation or struggle. Our hope is in the Lord, and our purpose is building up the body of Christ in the way the Lord calls us. Temptation and struggle will end when we reach heaven.

    It occurs to me that maybe you’d find it tolerable to have a “circuit” that you rode: Charlotte perhaps as your home base, with your church providing some grounding, but with regular trips — some perhaps to recurring sites such as Langhorne and your folks’ place in Georgia and some perhaps to different places each time.

    Meanwhile, enjoy the writing, enjoy the teaching, and enjoy the warm weather.

    • Thanks a lot, brother. I’ve thought a lot about the irony of feeling lost when settled and found while wandering. Such a strange thing I’m still processing. Devoting at least this next season of life here in the Queen City, and we’ll see what the seasons bring.

      I’ll definitely be making the most of my geographical proximity with road trips aplenty!

  • Bryon

    Not letting you go but I’m not putting you on a pedestal either. Same boat here but I don’t want either of us to go down. Perhaps what you need is a road trip to Denver. We’re all waiting for you.