By Anthony Casperson
****SPOILERS for Arrow season 5 premiere****
Oliver Queen, aka Green Arrow, has been having a difficult time coping with the death of one particular teammate as well as the breaking up of the team he’d built around himself. He’s essentially alone again. When he’s isolated, his thoughts turn dark and he takes the troubles of the world upon himself. (I wonder how that feels.)
And this is where we find Oliver at the beginning of season 5. He’s trying to balance being the newly-appointed mayor of Star City and the masked vigilante Green Arrow. Both parts he’s trying to accomplish by himself. And he’s failing at them both as well.
Ultimately, during the episode, Oliver gets kidnapped by someone who’s expecting the Green Arrow to show up and save Oliver Queen. (Poor little confused villain. Little do you know, you already have the Green Arrow in your clutches.) But Oliver breaks free of his bonds and takes on the stooge that’s been left to guard him. And in a moment, the likes of which we haven’t seen for a few seasons, Oliver snaps the neck of the guard.
Right then, Oliver’s sister, Thea, who has put on her red cowl “just this one last time” to save her brother enters. She then makes a comment about Oliver killing again. Oliver’s thought-process is explained a little later. The fact that he didn’t kill last season’s big bad when he’d had the chance, on several occasions, led to the death of his teammate. So, he’s been questioning the stance of non-lethality when it comes to taking on the bad guys.
Oliver is trying to grieve. Not only has one teammate died, but the whole team fell apart. He doesn’t know what to do, so he’s starting to go back to the type of guy he was in the earlier seasons, the loner who kills bad guys.
It was at this time while I was watching the episode that I said out loud a statement that a counseling professor of mine used to say often. “When we don’t know what to do, we go back to doing what we know how to do.” What this means is that when a person, even one who wants to change, comes to a moment when they don’t know what to do, old self-destructive habits arise. And usually, they work against the change the person is trying to accomplish.
The character Oliver Queen has lost his team, and he blames himself. Thus, now that he’s alone, he’s gone back to behaving like he did when he was alone previously. I believe that many of us do the same thing. (Though hopefully not the murderous vigilante part.) We begin to let the weight of the world crush us into self-destructive thoughts and actions.
The death of a loved one, the loss of a friend, the loss of a job, many difficult events can lead us into this negative headspace. Even good things, like a new job, or moving to a new chapter of our lives can make the negative thoughts begin to haunt our minds. And it’s even more true when it comes to the life of a follower of Jesus.
We are called a new creation. Change happens because of our new-found relationship with Jesus. Ephesians 4:20-24 calls us to take off the old self (our old ways of living for ourselves) and put on the new (the ways of living for Jesus). But how do we do that? What happens when we don’t know how to accomplish this putting on of a new self?
Oh sure, at first the newness of the relationship keeps us excited about the change, but what about when the newness fades? We often begin to fall back into old habits and sins. The weight of the world around us begins to kill off the growth we’ve begun. Like the thorny soil of Jesus’ parable found in Matthew 13, we see the growth choked out by the cares of this world.
But how do we keep ourselves from the destruction headed our way? How do we bring about lasting change? How do we let the roots of our growth dive deeply into life? I wish there was an easy answer. I wish I could just say that Jesus is the answer and be done with it. But I know all too well in my own experience that giving a pat answer like that leads to false hope and a speedier destruction.
There are many things that we can do to continue the positive movement toward change in our relationship with Jesus. I’m sure the exact path will be different for everyone. But I believe that at least one part can be learned from a TV show. We need people. We need people in our lives to stand as beacons of light in the darkness of our confused lives.
I know from my own life, that the cares of this world aren’t as powerful when I have people around me to remind me of the call to change that God has for me. When there’s someone who can say something that will spark a new idea for how to handle the situation that I don’t know how to overcome. There’s a power in relying on others. It might sound like weakness, but having others around us makes us stronger.
So, if you find yourself starting to be choked out by the cares of this world, if you find that self-destructive habits are popping back up again, go find a person (or better yet several people) and lay out your thoughts to them. Yeah, some will try to fix your problem in ways that won’t work for you. But the very fact that you are not alone anymore in this will likely get you headed back into the growth that God has called you into.