This is an excerpt from the Prologue of Art Hobba’s new book, “Killing the Hero” currently in development
A few years back I had to get away, and disappeared for 4 days to my Santa Barbara retreat center. I was an incredible mess. Forty years of toxic self-drivenness had me carrying two torches–two parallel lives–and it was not working. Most of my adult years had consisted of running dual career-paths at the same time. In my mid-20s I labored as a full-time Seminary student at night, and delivered top-performing sales for a Fortune 500 company. My 30’s had me in Louisiana as a church-planter, as I covered 5-States as a Sales Rep. My ego always found a reason to take on a double–sometimes triple, lives–all the while married with 2 young boys.
It started in High School. When I hit my senior year, I had no real aspirations or pressure to ace my grades. My mom had given me the game plan for college–hers not mine–and, other than year-round sports, school bored me. So I decided to break up my school week and take Wednesdays off. It was no big deal, really. The beach and the Santa Monica Mountains beckoned, and I had nailed forging my mom’s signature on the absence card. I was able to maintain my “B” average and, other than a couple of teachers–no one was the wiser. That August, just prior to starting college, Jesus found me, and I went all in. Quitting my Fraternity, I moved into a Christian commune, and renounced my car and possessions. Our youthful group of 45 coeds hit Van Nuys Boulevard witnessing 3 nights per week. for work, I buddied up on the Commune’s local paper route from 3-7 AM, and carried 16 units with a Pre-Med major at the State University.
In my mid-twenties, I got bit by the bug of SUCCESS. Hard. Tony Robbins, Sales Trainers, and the popular book, ”Winning by Intimidation,” had me convinced–along with my High School truancy experiment, that I could live two lives at once and make my millions. That is when the pressure point right under my sternum became my new, daily companion, which followed me into pastoral ministry for the next 14 years. At the age of 33 I began the discipline of retreating–twice each year–to a monastery or camp where I could decompress, be alone, read, contemplate, journal, and pray. This discipline eventually saved my life, my sanity, and my marriage.
The Lord is on High, but he gives respect to the humbly and lowly hearted, but the proud, he removes far away from his presence” — Psalm 138:6
As a 40-year-old Senior Pastor, I had gone gray early. Nevertheless, financial pressures in our church drove my massive ego to continue to believe I could do it all, so I got the ok from the church Board to take on a high-tech marketing post with 3M, and continue my role in ministry.. If it was ok for the Apostle Paul to make tents and change the world, I was in great company. In my 50’a, after resigning from the church due to burnout–and a ruined marriage–I went full throttle into a fast-growth public tech business, rising to lead their West Coast operations. Upon selling the company, I forged a new role by founding a management-consulting firm, Transcende
Somehow, I always thought I was following Jesus, maximizing time stewardship and my enormous talent, all the while trying to do the minimum needed to be a decent husband and Dad. I was home, but not “present,” I had developed this alternative Sybil-like persona trying to get people around me to think, “Wow, this guy is incredible!” There was a moral crisis at the megachurch we attended, and upon request of the Elders to the men’s ministry leaders, I began writing and teaching men’s discipleship curricula and books 4-6 hours a day on top of my job, and Core 300 was born.
To my immediate family, I had become a dark comedy–and the joke was on me. They worried and they were hurt. My drive and biblically justified windmills had taken their toll on my second marriage, and my 5 father-son relationships struggled to both love me while remaining ready to head for the exit if I started to self-combust.
September 2016, Immaculate Heart Retreat Center, Montecito, CA – Praise God for the habit of retreating to be alone with God. As I unpacked in my private suite and turned on some quieting Celtic Harp and Pan Flute music. I forced myself to clear my mind of competing thoughts of unfinished business and chose to be still, focusing on Jesus only. Three verses into an hour-long meditation of Psalm 23, I was interrupted by my Heavenly Father’s voice in me, saying, “Art, I am so weary of you competing with me to be god. There has never been but one real Hero, and He is my Son.”
My heart nearly stopped–and then, slowly, as the words penetrated my religious defenses, it began to break. My first emotions were self-disgust–then huge personal loss, followed by terror, and finally, physical nausea. Fountains of tears ebbed and then surged, on and off, for the next 24 hours as God’s diagnosis and indictment unearthed multiple memories of my trespasses. Over the next 3 days of revelation, confession, writing, and repentance, the pressure under my breastbone gradually released. I knew that this was not a one-and-done cathartic moment, nor merely an important mid-course correction. I had come to a full stop.
I was desperate. Assessing what was true, understanding my dire trajectory, and then realigning my course with reality, took me into a descent into Hell to die, like Dicken’s Ghost of Xmas Future, and then I came back to childlikeness to recalibrate the remaining few years of my life. I needed God to change my internal wiring—my own oft-practiced narrative and thinking patterns that fed falsehood and shame 8into my psyche. In order for that to happen, I’d needed to know and understand why I had spent my life and energy–presuming I was serving God–while secretly building a parallel, competing, and self-destructive temple to a Hero named Art Hobba. The active, flesh-carving Sword of the Spirit decapitated my PR and persona, stripping me of 50+ years of false armor. I became aware that my custom-smithed armor had been underway since young boyhood, beginning with my larger than life Dad.
All through my years of living, my mid-to-upper class upbringing had paraded hundreds of heroic stories before me–and had twisted my core values and identity. By the age of 5, I had learned that I would fail my hero-Dad if I did not strive to equal or exceed him and every way. This attitude, plus natural good looks and strength, quickly made me the king of the 1st-grade playground and the teacher’s pet. When our family suddenly moved from pastoral Pennsylvania to the Long Island, NY jungle, my mom and the educators decided to skip me ahead one grade. The disorientation and confusion in my soul were exacerbated by a hostile social culture presented by my 2nd-grade peers. The Hero was dead. That was the first year I fashioned my first sel-protecting buttress of false armor.
The Lord of hosts has planned it, to defile the pride of all beauty,
To despise all the honored of the earth — .Isaiah 23:9
I returned home under cast-iron clouds compounded by immense mourning. The losses of 4 decades–so much time—family time—fun time—time alone with God—spiritual growth–the knowledge that the bulk of my “reward” in heaven was a tinder-ready stack of “hay and stubble.”–and it had already become ashes scattered among my memories. I mourned the time lost for making and loving true friends, and the simple joy of listening to their hero stories, instead of comparing them, and trying to make them listen to mine.
I had resolved to do four things well going forward:
- Choose now to go on a 3-4 day retreat alone. Book it today. Get some advice from 2-3 men who have this habit as to how plan your time away.
- Begin a new life, and start by confessing personally to each family member, and the men in my Bible Study, to work to redeem my relationships with my wife, 5 sons, and brothers in Christ.
- Kill—TEAR DOWN–Annihilate–the “hero” deception, and continue to be vigilant against it. For me, this means I have to begin each day on my face–and empty myself before the Lord.
- Seek ways to Hero-worship Jesus–the ONLY Hero. Elevate and give God the full credit for anything good that you are doing or becoming.
“The Kingdom of Heaven suffers (allows for) violence, and the violent ones seize it by force” — Jesus, in Matthew 11:12
Each time I shared my Hero story with another guy, they often got sober-faced—even kind of sheepish looking–in their demeanor and posture. Some don’t respond but just nodded silently. More than a few said, “Isn’t that true for all of us?”
Maybe God is not working with you the way you expected. Could it possibly be that the hero construct in you has made Him more of an adversary than a friend? No sane man would ever consider himself in competition with God, right?
Yet, whenever you put yourself out there in your world, remember how you felt and acted:
- When your family gathers;
- When you step up to a microphone to say a few words
- When you step into a room as an expert of some sort
- Or entering a party as a man (of too many mirrors) with a sculpted body from the gym
- Or when you reply to an online post and jump into a conversation
Are you thinking primarily of how you will appear to the audience–even if it is your grandkids? Is your objective to gain respect or to be admired? Have you decided, once and for all (though there is always the daily habit of dying to self and self-humbling), that your presence, purpose, actions, and expected outcomes are for the glorification of the love of Jesus in and around you? Do we hope that others will be inspired–often in their subconscious--to lean in closer to Father God because of His light and love that is being shed upon their darkness because of your presence? Do others feel their thirst for His living water increase by your sacrifice of love, or demeanor as you listen to their story?
Our Father gives favor to the humble, but against the proud–against that independent hero questing in you and me, He will fight relentlessly and fiercly against your heroic motives–and bring low to whatever degree he sees fit–in order to save your soul. Be aware that the zeal with which he will contend indirectly with your agenda will ultimately defeat your ego–and that the cost of him doing so will create a vortex of chaos so powerful as to suck in your family, business, health if you or I continue to stubbornly resist him.
The Lord will tear down the house of the proud, But He will redeem and establish the boundary of the widow. — Proverbs 15:25
We all know shipwrecked souls–once friends and common men like us–who have carried their own quest into the abyss. I am incredibly grateful–and humbled–that my Abba in Heaven bore my sins–in patience–and undeservedly offered me the opportunity to repent.
But Art, who would I be without posturing habits–even to myself? Who am I without the heroes quest??
My friend, that void is where this book and your predestined adventure truly begin!
Art Hobba, Author, Speaker, and Missionary to Kenya Email me at [email protected]
Follow us at Facebook.com/core300 and look for new chapters of Awakening the Warrior and Killing the Hero by Art Hobba in the weeks and months ahead
Scripture Source: https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/God-Opposes-The-Proud