Life has challenges and can’t be faced alone, but with the help of faithful and loyal friends, we can make it through. We all need a Batman.
They were right there beside me. Where I went, they went. I couldn’t shake them off, and neither would I want to. They saw both my very private moments of despair and the times of victorious success. He was my batman and carried my bat well.
Before Batman wore a mask
Long before Batman made his appearance as comic book caped crusader, some men had a role in military life as being a batman for a senior officer. They were essentially a servant to an officer in the army.
The term is derived from the obsolete word ‘bat’ meaning ‘packsaddle.’ The batman was in charge of the officers ‘bat-horse,’ which would carry the officers kit during a campaign.
A batman’s duties often included
- acting as a “runner” to convey orders from the officer to subordinates
- maintaining the officer’s uniform and personal equipment as a valet
- driving the officer’s vehicle, sometimes under combat conditions
- acting as the officer’s bodyguard in combat
- digging the officer’s foxhole in combat, giving the officer time to direct his unit
- other miscellaneous tasks the officer did not have time or inclination to do
Not a name we probably know, but Sam Hodges was batman to J.R.R. Tolkien at the Battle of the Somme in World War I. This place of hellish death and evil was the context out of which Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings.
Tolkien, I believe, honors his batman by naming one of the principal characters in the story after him.
In the epic story, a small furry footed hobbit called Frodo is on a mission to rid the world of a powerful ring. Alongside him walks an equally little man named Samwise Gangee, a batman to his friend.
So typical was the loyal response of a batman to his officer is that of Sam to Frodo.
“Come, Mr. Frodo!’ he cried. ‘I can’t carry it [the ring] for you, but I can carry you.” The Return of the King
Jonathan, Ruth, and Mary
When we look into the biblical hero stories of men and women like you and me, we find batmen.
Naomi had a daughter in law Ruth, who declared her loyalty.
Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. Ruth 1:16-18
Jesus had Mary
Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. John 12:1-8
The Batman sees
There is something special about the truest of batmen and batwomen. They see something beyond the immediate struggle. When the one they are serving loses heart, they come alongside and fill up the encouragement tank.
They know that their role is subservient to some higher calling. That there is a mission, and their part to play is backstage.
In real life
I’ve been batman to many. I haven’t dug any actual foxholes, but I have provided places for people to come and find shelter from the storms and battles of life.
It takes the vision of seeing in someone else the battles and challenges they are facing. That takes deep listening.
Then a coming alongside and pouring encouragement into the soul.
For a man, it might well be noticing the remembered movements he is making in his world. He is on a quest, and he stumbles, he falls, you pick him up and tell to keep going.
For a woman, it might well be noticing the beauty that is contained within her. There is an invite there to know something of that divine beauty. She gets hurt, used, and wants to hide, but you confirm the beauty and help her to reveal it once more.
Have we lost batman?
In the foolishness of self individualism, where its all about ‘me’ and less about ‘we’ perhaps we have lost the awareness of batmen and batwomen. The faithful Samwise Gamgee, the loyalty of Ruth, and the self-sacrifice of Mary.
Theodore Roosevelt wrote this
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; ‘The Man in the Arena.’
For every ‘man in the arena,’ there has to be a batman or batwoman in his corner. Someone who will wipe away the dust and sweat and blood. Someone who will give him water and a warm, encouraging pat on the back.
It’s time to acknowledge and endorse the role of Batman and Batwoman and rid Gotham city of despair.
Quotes to consider
- Real encouragement occurs when words are spoken from a heart of love to another’s recognized fear. Larry Crabb
- Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead.
Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow.
Just walk beside me and be my friend. Albert Camus
- When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. Henri J.M. Nouwen
- Encouragement has its root in the Latin word cor, which literally means “heart”. So does the word courage. To have courage means to have heart. To encourage – to provide with or give courage – literally means to give others heart. Jim Kouzes, Barry Posner
Questions to answer
- What are the qualities of a good batman?
- What other examples can you think of people in the background who have been batmen?
- How do we encourage those who seem to be like batmen?