This week I had an audition in which a closeup of my hands was needed for my slate at the end. To do this, I had to remove the only two rings I wear, and consequently felt rather naked and a little lost the rest of the day before putting them back on. Why?
One is my University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill class ring. It makes me feel closer to the legacy of UNC, which I am thankful to be part of, and it's a reminder, a spark, of energy for the dreams and goals I had in college and still have today.
But the second is a ring from Sparkle! Designs, reading “With you till the end of the line.” I got this at Galaxy Con last year, long before I ever watched (and fell in love with) Captain America (and Chris Evans). Long before I also fell in love with Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier.
This quote hits home for me because I have always loved that God is our Alpha and Omega. The beginning and the end. I was actually searching for a ring to specifically “point me back to God” at a moment's notice—something I had been struggling with for a while. I had become distracted and forgetful of God’s presence and mightiness. I was forgetting to pray consistently. I was trying to do all things on my own, in my own power, without leaning into God's presence.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,”says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8 NIV
Then the ring came up at Galaxy Con. And while I didn't know the context of the quote, I knew this was a quote that would remind me of God. What He has done. What His power and love and grace entail.
Fast forward to this week. I came into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with Doctor Strange (yup, right smack dab in the back half of the 22-film saga). But because of my ring, I was most intrigued with Captain America's and Winter Soldier's storyline. So during this COVID quarantine, my roommate and I have gone back to the beginning of the MCU and watched through all the movies I had missed...we just happened to start with Captain America's movies before going to Iron Man 😉 (for the full list of MCU movies, click here).
I was instantly drawn to (read: obsessed with) Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier. Bucky was someone who protected and had a deep friendship with Steve Rogers well before he ever became the super soldier Captain America. Bucky had joined the Army, and then ended up kidnapped and brainwashed by Hydra. But even more compelling than his tortured, forced-by-Hydra-assassin-state as the Winter Soldier, was the fact that even he is redeemable after all of the horrible things that happened to him and because of him. And much like Kylo Ren, Black Widow, Hawkeye in Endgame, or other bad-guys-turned-good-guys, he doesn't always believe that about himself.
But he is worth it.
As are we all.
Perhaps what draws me to Bucky and Cap most is their friendship at all costs and against all odds. Bucky told Steve in the first Captain America film that he was with him till the end of the line, a sentiment echoed by Cap back to Bucky in Winter Soldier. And so to see Cap continue to believe in Bucky, despite all of the awful things Bucky had previously done and what politicians said he was currently doing (spoiler alert, they were wrong!), gives me hope. It reminds me not only of the fact that none of us are too far gone, but also that we are still worth having someone stand by us through thick and thin.
Love in friendship is a powerful weapon that, when wielded for good, can accomplish incredible things.
Know who else stands by us through thick and thin? Who has been there for us since the beginning, and sacrificed himself for us at all costs?
Loneliness to me is one of the most horrible feelings. It's like a hole in the pit of my stomach that aches and doesn't feel like it can ever be filled. Not loneliness like when you're at a party and just don't have a friend nearby. I mean loneliness like when you are going through something difficult, and it feels like you have absolutely no one who cares. No one to turn to. No one to lean on.
This loneliness is where the darkness hides the most for me, where sin battles the strongest for my heart. This is something that gave way to God saving me in 2012, but it is still something that I have to constantly bring back to God.
But what does reassure me is this idea that God has been, is, and ever will BE. He sacrificed Jesus for us, so that we might be His in heaven. He is everywhere at every time. He cares. And even in my darkest moments, He is there for me. He is there for you. So even when I still fight the battles against darkness and loneliness, I can rest in the fact that He has won the war. I can still point back to Him and know He is with me. He will be with me.
Till the end of the line. Till the end of the age.