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For the past 20 years, since the 9/11 terror attacks, heroes have been front and center in the American imagination. 

It’s impossible to forget the images of the rescue teams emerging from the rubble of the World Trade Center towers, and the poignant still photos of the first responders who went into harm’s way and never returned. 

“Heroic” is a word that quickly became attached to some of the passengers aboard United Flight 93.  Their actions apparently brought down the jet in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, well short of its designated target in Washington D.C. 

The pandemic has made heroes of thousands of doctors, nurses, researchers, and hospital workers who continue to risk their own lives while saving others in the battle against COVID.    
Hollywood, meanwhile, has cranked out more than a hundred superhero movies, fueling the fantasy that if you really want to make a difference, you’ll need superpowers or super training or super good luck to end up in just the right place at the right time.

But it isn’t so. 

A hero is someone who by the quality of their everyday life raises the level of character in everyone around them.  That means that you and I can be heroes. 

And that’s the call of God on our lives.

Since 9/11 I’ve heard several people sigh, “I’m so glad that I’m not the President right now.”  But you are the President right now.  You are the President of a small but oh-so-important domain: your own heart.  And what happens in that realm, as a partnership between you and God, has the capacity to make a world of difference. 

John Ashcroft was sworn in as a U.S. Senator from the state of Missouri on January 4, 1995.  The night before the inauguration he gathered with family and friends. 

One of those present was his father, whose health had been progressively declining but who had resolved to be present for this special event.  Ashcroft recalls the moment when his father, who was seated on the couch, addressed the gathering.

“John,” he said to his son, “please listen carefully.”  Those present gave him their full attention. 

“The spirit of Washington is arrogance and the spirit of Christ is humility.  Put on the spirit of Christ.  Nothing of lasting value has ever been accomplished in arrogance.”

The room was absolutely still.  Ashcroft asked for prayer.  He writes, “Then I noticed my father swinging his arms, trying to lift himself out of the couch.  Given my father’s weakness – a damaged heart operating at less than one-third capacity – getting out of that couch was a major feat.  I felt terrible. 

“Knowing that he didn’t have the strength to spare, I said, ‘Dad, you don’t have to struggle to stand and pray over me with these friends.’  ‘John,’ my father answered, ‘I’m not struggling to stand.  I’m struggling to kneel.’ 

Ashcroft’s father died the day after his inauguration.

In all of our passion and struggle to help America stand, are we willing to answer the call to do something truly heroic? 

By God’s grace – struggling as we go – may we do all we can to show our country how to kneel.