Recently the sequel to Pixar’s hit movie The Incredibles came out. It has been a while since I have seen the original so I fired up the old DVD player (not really, we burned this onto our iTunes account long ago so I actually mirrored my iMac’s screen to the Apple TV and played the movie that way) and watched it with the kids the other night. I noticed something in the movie that I had never seen before, though we have seen it so many times we were all reciting scenes from memory.
If you have never seen the movie, it is about a world with super powered heroes. Unlike most other super hero stories, the beginning of the movie sets up a tragedy where heroes are considered a liability to society and banned from practicing their powers in public. The main characters go into hiding and the movie skips ahead to the world after all the heroes have blended into normal society for quite some time.
In the setup of the movie the main character, Mr. Incredible, encounters a young boy who is the founder of his fan club. This young boy, Buddy, had created some nifty inventions and decided he was going to try to be Mr. Incredible’s sidekick. He is quickly tossed aside as an annoyance by Mr. Incredible and told to “Go home!” Undeterred, Buddy shows up again in the midst of Mr. Incredible’s heroic activities and because of his inexperience causes Mr. Incredible serious issues which leads to the events getting heroes banned. Despite the movie treating these incidents like merely a setup, this is not the last time we see Buddy in the movie.
[Spoiler Alert] Seriously? Do I even have to write that for a fourteen year old movie? Later in the movie the main villain is revealed to be Buddy all grown up. He has harbored serious bitterness toward Mr. Incredible and hatched a plan to not only get his revenge but also use his technological inventions to make himself a hero, then sell his inventions so everyone can be a hero, making heroes obsolete for all time.
This is the part I had never noticed before, if Mr. Incredible had taken the boy under his wing and mentored him in the ways of heroing, not only would he have avoided the events that got super heroes banned but he may have created one of the best super heroes out there. He could not see Buddy’s potential because he was not super powered and so he wrote him off. How many young people are there today who don’t have someone seeing their potential and helping to mold it so they will use it for God’s glory instead of something selfish and destructive?
Mentorship is a theme we see throughout the Bible. Jephthah mentors Moses as his father in law, helping him to learn an incredible lesson to avoid burnout and to strengthen the other leaders God had provided for Israel. Moses mentors Joshua to take over his role to lead Israel into the promised land once God makes it clear that Moses won’t be the one to do that job. Samuel mentors David, so does Nathan when he confronts the sin David committed and gets him back on the right track. Elijah mentors Elisha to be God’s prophet after him. The apostle Paul is mentored by some of the original twelve and then by Barnabas. Paul goes on to mentor Luke (an author of one of our gospels), Timothy, Titus, and more.
Part of living a life of faith in Jesus Christ is to pass that faith down to the generations after us. God even makes this a benchmark for his covenant people when he commands them in Deuteronomy 6:4-7:
4Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.
Recently Christianity has failed at this element of our faith. Young people are walking away from the Church and from the faith at alarming rates.
Re-watching The Incredibles a few nights ago gave me a different perspective on why. Mr. Incredible couldn’t see the potential Buddy had because he did not have super powers. In other words, he didn’t fit Mr. Incredible’s paradigm for what a hero should be. Mr. Incredible was blind to his own calling to mold this young man to use the potential he had for good because Buddy was not like him. How many of our youth have been ignored by older generations in the Church because they don’t see themselves as being relevant to those young people. “Those young people are so different than me, I really can’t connect to them.” This is something I have heard time and time again. This is another form of the same sin of Mr. Incredible.
The future of the Church is something deeply on the mind of so many right now. Things are looking bleak for the faith if you read any of the statistical reports. It should be a wake up call for most of us to recognize our own pride and unwillingness to step outside of our comfort zones and mentor the next generation. Someone did it for us once and it is our turn. We were once the strange generation that stretched the paradigm of those before us, but they swallowed their pride and help us develop our potential. Let us return to this most important element of the faith and not let any Buddy’s go by unnoticed.