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Smallville and the roads we travel

I'm late on this, but I just watched last week’s Smallville episode, “Void” (boy, do I love TiVo)—and it has lots of God-talk simmering just below the surface.

Smallville chronicles the years of a young Clark Kent before he becomes Superman. It has many familiar characters also in their younger years, like Lana Lang, Lois Lane, Jonathan and Martha Kent, and—one of the most interesting—Lex Luthor. Like Clark, we are meeting Lex before he becomes Superman’s nemesis. As we watch Clark become a superhero, we also watch Lex become a super-villain. Neither starts out that way, but the show chronicles the choices they make that lead them down their respective roads.

I like this show for the same reason I like movies in the comic book genre: it is ripe with themes that resonate with Christians: good versus evil, struggles with sin and redemption, etc.

What made this particular episode special? Well, first a summary:

The plot centers on Lana and her new addiction to a Kryptonite drug which allows people to “die” for several moments and visit loved ones on the “other side.” However, if you take too many trips, your trip becomes a permanent relocation. (Does this remind anyone else of Flatliners?) Anyway, in the process of rescuing Lana, both Lex and Clark (who both love Lana) are injected with the drug and take their own journeys to the other side.

For Lex, the journey is chilling. Not long ago (Lexmas), Lex took a similar trip. Lying in a coma from a gunshot wound, Lex met his mother (she died when he was boy), who lovingly showed him a future life he could have if he gave up his lust for power and control. It was a blissful life with Lana and a son—but then Lana then dies in childbirth. Lex, heartbroken, rejected his mother’s plea and buys into the illusion that money and power are the only ways to control his life, the lives of those he loves (and hates) and bring him happiness.

In “Void,” Lex meets his mother again, but this time she coldly chides him for his previous decision and mercilessly reveals to him the fate that awaits him—one filled with darkness, murder and blood. She tells him it’s not too late to change his path, but after he revives, Lex brushes away the confrontation and chooses to continue down the same road.

For Clark, the journey is bittersweet. He meets his father, who died earlier from a heart-attack during a confrontation with Lex’s evil father, Lionel. Clark is guilt-filled because one of the choices he made inadvertently led to Jonathon Kent’s death. Clark confesses this to his father with deep regret, but Jonathan is forgiving, warm, strong and loving towards his son. He also tells Clark that his destiny is to be a symbol of peace, justice and hope to the world. Then Jonathan literally pushes Clark back towards that destiny—and back to life—with words of love and a promise to always be with him.

There’s much more to the episode, but those two scenes were pivotal. (It’s scenes like these—well-written and acted—that put Smallville on my TiVo’s Season Pass list.) These scenes aptly illustrate that the contrast between Clark and Lex is growing ever more stark. Their choices are taking them farther down opposite roads.

For Clark, his meeting with his father was one of confrontation but also love, clarification and strength. Essentially, Jonathan forgives, reassures and tells him: “You have a purpose, Clark, and it is good.” Clark is not only comforted, but gains a greater sense of the good he can do in the world.

You don’t have dig far to get to the God-talk. As Christians, Jonathon’s voice reminds us of the voice of our own heavenly Father. When we confess our sins, he is faithful to forgive us. Our Father also reminds us that we too have a purpose—and it is good. We are also called to be vessels of peace and justice in a world that desperately cries out for it. And our Father—a voice of strength and love—promises always to be with us. And that gives us hope and peace.

For Lex, the meeting with his mother was also of confrontation but it ends disturbingly empty and in denial. She faces him with the horror of the path he’s chosen and gives him another chance to confess he’s wrong, to turn back. But Lex continues on his own way. He embraces again, both out of fear and desire, the road towards power and wealth, no matter what the cost. As viewers, we know how things turn out for Lex. Power and wealth will only take him further from what he wants: love, acceptance and security. We know what’s at the end of the road, and it isn’t pretty.

As Christians, this is a good reminder of how going down the wrong road hardens one’s heart. Lex refuses to listen to someone who knows what will happen, and listens instead to his own fears and desires. In the same way, we often exchange God’s wisdom for our own desires and fears. And the further down that road we go, the harder it is to hear or accept God’s voice.

Clark and Lex are going further down the roads they’ve chosen and their purposes are growing clearer. For Clark, wrong choices confessed leads to forgiveness, freedom and a greater sense of purpose. For Lex, wrong choices embraced lead to isolation, darkness and more wrong decisions.

Episodes like this give us an opportunity to examine ourselves: What road are we walking? What voices are we listening to? What choices are we making? Whose purpose are we embracing? All good questions worth thinking about.

(Image copyright: Warner Brothers Smallville) smallvillectgy

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