Okay, I'm admitting it. I wore my Superman t-shirt to sleep in last night. That's about as close to being Superman as I'll get.
I sometimes have trouble opening a jar. I doubt I could bend steel in my bare hands. As far as leaping tall buildings in a single bound - I have trouble getting up off the floor.
But with the new "Man of Steel" movie rocking the box office, Superman is popping up - or landing - all over the place.
And he's reminding me of the sad reality that there really is no such thing as Superman.
Oh, if you're a man, you're supposed to be. Never weak, life's bullets bouncing off you. The fixer. The solver. The answer man. The tower of strength. The conqueror.
Above all, the conqueror. Because a man supposedly proves he's a man by his conquests. In sports. In business. In the gym. With women.
I'm learning, though, that those aren't the conquests that ultimately prove your manhood.
No, the question is - "Can you conquer yourself?"
The volcano temper that erupts briefly, but can scar permanently. The chainsaw mouth that rips even people we love. The selfishness that insists that I'm more important than you are. The passions that cheapen sex, use people, and imprison our imagination. The dark feelings that take us to a very bad place. The addiction that calls the shots.
The Bible presents a man's conquest of himself as decisive in his manhood. It says, "It is better to be patient than powerful; it is better to have self-control than to conquer a city" (Proverbs 16:32) And young men are praised for proving they're strong by the evil they've overcome (1 John 2:14).
Every man has his Kryptonite. Denying our weakness only guarantees it will bring us down. Stuffing our pain only hastens the explosion. Pretending we've got it all together only sentences us to a dangerous strain of lonely.
So, yes, manhood is conquest. Of myself.
And that begins with taking off the Superman mask of invulnerability. Admitting when I'm hurting. When I'm not sure. When I need someone.
A lot of men had a dad who always had to be tough. And right. And in control. But the son would have given anything to know if his dad was proud of him...to hear him apologize...to hear him say, "I love you." Even today there are scars from his criticism, his anger, his distance.
So I'm seeing now that "man up" may mean something quite different from the macho myths we were raised on.
It means being man enough to say three of the most healing words in the English language - "I was wrong." Or "I forgive you."
Manhood is saying those words we thought showed weakness but actually prove strength. "I need help." Before the explosion comes. Before I hurt people more. Before I'm hooked and can't get free. I can't conquer me alone.
The man in the mirror is my biggest battle. But maybe - if I'll swallow my stubborn pride - my biggest conquest.
I have to agree with that guy in the Bible who said, "I really want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate...Who will free me?" You can't be rescued until you admit you can't save yourself. Until you're willing to pin all your hopes on somebody who can rescue you.
And "who will free me?' "Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ" (Romans 7:15, 24-25). Because the animal inside us - sin, God calls it - can only be tamed by the Man who turned its fury on Himself. Who took on Himself all the darkness, all the penalty that has made my sin my master - and my eternal destiny. He beat it on the cross.
I am one of an army of men who have surrendered our lives to this amazing Jesus. Who've discovered that a man can finally conquer his darkness - by being conquered. By the Son of God.