I’m going to tell you a story today, friends. A story about a little boy. Not very long after he was born, this little boy finds himself in grave danger. War has ravaged his homeland and it is no longer safe for him. Under attack from the enemy, our little hero becomes an orphan. Lost and alone, our infant child is raised by the leader of the opposing country. He’s raised as a prince among men; an heir to the throne. Only as an adult is he told the truth; that he is actually adopted and a son of the people he’s been declaring war against on his father’s behalf.
What does he do?
Well, that depends entirely on who we are talking about. You see, this story is the story of two of the greatest figures in modern storytelling. This is the story of Moses. This is the story of Loki. Are you a little bit weirded out by the fact that these two characters have the same origin story? I was too, at first.
After all, Loki is a villain. Misunderstood and dreamy, but a villain nonetheless. Moses is a hero. Misunderstood and dreamy (when played by Christian Bale as in the upcoming Ridley Scott epic), but a hero nonetheless.
These two men are so, so different. And yet, come from very similar places. How did one turn into everyone’s favorite villain and the other into one of the Old Testament’s biggest inspirations?
Choices. Loki grew up bitter that Thor was always Odin’s favorite. He felt second-rate and unloved. Instead of channeling his feelings into growth or positivity, he channeled them into anger and rage. When he found out he was adopted, it was the final piece of proof that he didn’t belong on Asgard and that he would never love or forgive those who had wronged him.
Moses grew up Pharaoh’s favorite, but that didn’t make his life easier than Loki’s necessarily. He still found himself at odds with a brother and trying to please a father that wasn’t easily pleased. When Moses found out he was adopted, he was angry as well. But after realizing who he was and where he came from; after humanizing the Hebrews, Moses understood that he could choose to let this break him or force him to grow. He chose the latter.
If you’re familiar with the Moses story, you know that he never really got the hang of making the right choice the first time. But he always tried. He always listened. He always figured it out in the end.
In a culture of self-help books and ready-made excuses, it is all too easy to blame our circumstances for who we are. Sometimes, life is really, really bad. Our circumstances are so far from ideal that we can’t even see on iota of positivity. It’s okay to feel lost and discouraged and sad. But what you do next is where the real power lies. Will you be a Loki, turning hurt into rage that hurts other people? Or will you be a Moses? Turning hurt into healing for a nation, even if you do screw up all along the way?
Dumbledore said it best: “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are…”