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Smallville's 'Homecoming': How our vision of the future changes the way we live now


We always have a choice, Kal-El. Your father didn’t have to care for you the way he did. Yet still he made that choice every day he was with you. He chose to be your protector, just as you’ve chosen to be the Earth’s protector. Nobody forced that on you, yet you embraced it. Nobody made that choice for you. We all choose our own fate.
~Brainiac, "Homecoming" episode of Smallville

 The final season of Smallville is playing out fabulously. “Lazarus,” the season premiere, brought to the front burner a theme that has kept me intrigued in this 10-season-long series: how choice determines the path we walk, be it towards light and life or darkness and destruction. And the 200th episode picked up on that and played it out in a wonderful and moving way. In a kind of twist on A Christmas Carol, a reformed and now good Brainiac takes Clark into the past, the present and the future in an attempt to help him face his fears and darkness and embrace the path we know he will. Along the way, the episode explores not only what keeps us from making the right choices, but what helps us make them a well.

For Clark, his darkness (or “corruption,” as Brainiac aptly labels it in this episode) began in the past—particularly his guilt about how his father died as the cost for Clark's choice to change time and save Lana from death. So, Brainiac takes Clark back to witness his father’s beating of Lionel Luther that precipitated his heart attack and death. Clark watches dumfounded. Jonathan had tried to explain to Clark in “Lazarus” about his own personal darkness (which took the form of anger), but it isn’t until this moment that Clark begins to grasp that his father’s death came as a result of his father's own choices as well. (And I love how Brainiac underscores this with his words above.)

Brainic then takes Clark to the present, where Clark witnesses how his guilt and anger about the past has caused him to make choices that neglect, punish and hurt the people in the present—but it is the trip to the future that resonates most with me. For unlike A Christmas Carol, Clark’s future isn’t bleak—it’s amazing. It’s everything we know it will be. And that gets at something about our own reality: what we think of the future affects the choices we make, too.

In The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard says:
To live strongly and creatively in the kingdom of the heavens, we need to have firmly fixed in our minds what our future is to be like. We want to live fully in the kingdom now, and for that purpose our future must make sense to us. It must be something we can now plan or make decisions in terms of, with clarity and joyful anticipation. In this way our future can be incorporated into our life now and our life now can be incorporated into our future.
That future, says Willard, is “so full of beauty and goodness we can hardly imagine.” He continues, “We will not sit around looking at one another or at God for eternity but will join the eternal Logos, ‘reign with him,’ in the endless ongoing creative work of God…. [I]n the kingdom of our Father we will be active, unimaginably creative.”

When I first read Willard’s words years ago, they opened a whole new way of approaching my walk with God and his people. We know how the Story ends and knowing that helps us walk with in deeper trust with God—and that changes us here and now. Just as Clark must let go of the mistakes of his past and his fear of the future in order to become the hero we know he will become, we must work with God not only to rid ourselves of the “corruption” of the guilt and brokenness that comes from our mistakes in the past but also let go of our fear of the future. As we do, we will be freed to become the people he created and enables us to be in the here and now, in this middle part of the Story.

Over the years, Superman has become my favorite of the comic-book heroes in no small part because of the enduring hope-full nature of the character in spite of all the darkness, evil and corruption he faces—and I love how Smallville is exploring all of that because it is bringing some pretty good God-talk into these open spaces.