For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress. O my Strength, to you I sing praises, for you, O God, are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love. (Psalm 59:16-17)
Relate: I recently finished watching Netflix’s “Defenders” and thinking on how far it has fallen from the first in this series of shows that they have done. Because of the grittiness of that first show, I would say that the Netflix version of Daredevil is not for the faint of heart. The realism of some of the violence, the way injuries sustained carry over, slowly healing, from one episode to the next makes the violence seem much more real than in most other Superhero type shows. One thing that is also much more real is the way the show very openly deals with issues of faith. Matt Murdock doesn’t just carry the “Irish Catholic” trope, his Catholicism informs his actions and motivations in a way I can’t remember seeing from Hollywood in a long time (if ever).
When I was thinking of the verse I am using today from Psalm 59, the word sanctuary immediately came to mind. My thoughts first went to the Hunchback of Notre Dame and then from there to the (horrible) Ben Affleck version of Daredevil. As I started to write, my mind continued to drift to this more recent, and far better, version of the Marvel character and I came back to one conversation Matt Murdock, the blind lawyer/superhero had with his priest.
Murdock: Do you believe in the devil, Father?
Lantom: You mean… as a concept?
Murdock: No. Do you believe he exists, in the world, among us?
Lantom: Do you want the short answer or the long one?
Murdock: Just the truth.
Lantom then goes on to discuss how there was a time when he actually didn’t. When he was in seminary and during his earlier years in the ministry he believed the devil was a scare tactic used to drive people to the truth. He then goes on to describe his experiences in Rwanda during that genocide and how that horror changed his understanding of evil in the world and the reality of the devil. He doesn’t deny or cover up his former doubts. He doesn’t shy away from the truth. This spiritual leader is genuinely open and vulnerable before a man who is obviously going through some serious internal conflicts of his own. His openness allows the one who is supposed to be “confessing” to him to open up in turn. His words and vulnerability are the “sanctuary” that the daredevil so clearly needs.
React: Obviously, these are just fictional characters in a fantasy world, but even still it is an excellent model for us. Instead of giving an orthodox answer to a theological question, the priest shared his own story. He told of his own journey from doubt to truth without trying to gloss over the messy parts. How often do I have the moral courage to do this? When somebody is struggling, how willing am I to wade into that struggle and walk through it with them? How many times have I failed instead by remaining on a moral platform, hiding behind a mask of spirituality, while I directed them on what they “need to do” or “should believe”?
Is my open compassion a sanctuary for the hurting? Does my love and caring create a refuge for the lost? Do my words and actions create a shelter for those in distress? According to the Psalmist, the refuge of God is His unfailing love. Are we living out a visible manifestation of His love? Am I? Can I be His sanctuary?
Help me to be a sanctuary to the world You so deeply love. I am Your church. I am an ambassador, a representative, of Your love in this world. Help me to love. Give me the courage to be open and vulnerable to those I might speak with that they might have the freedom to be open and vulnerable in return. Don’t let me hide behind a mask of religiousness. Help me to avoid that stained glass masquerade. Instead let Your love and Your compassion spill out of me with every step that I take in following You.