Lessons of Hope and Love from Smallville
Confession: I just finished watching Smallville earlier this year. A few years behind, I know. What can I say, I got into TV binging late, and I have a lot of catching up to do. But after approximately 7 years of on and off watching, I finally completed the entire ten seasons. Yikes. Worth it? The show definitely doesn’t escape all complaints and criticisms from me (we know it ends with Lois and Clark, why do we have to suffer through so much Lana-angst?), but I am a sucker for some good ol’ early 2000’s TV drama. Especially with the added bonus of superheroes and supervillians.
Warning: from this point on, there be spoilers.
In the series finale, Clark gave a grand inspirational speech to close out the show, but also, I think, to mark the moment when he really became Superman. That was Smallville – Superman pre-Superman. Not just because he didn’t know how to use all his powers yet, or because he didn’t have the spandex suit, or because he wasn’t world famous. Clark wasn’t Superman yet, not because he wasn’t a superhero, but because he wasn’t even really Clark Kent yet. Little baby Clark wasn’t born with kindness and goodness and morality built into him. All those pure qualities we know Clark/Superman to have, were something he had to be taught, and something he had to work at. It was even something he failed at, quite often, and not even just because of red kryptonite.
All those failures are what make his speech such a turning point.
Hope for the Darkest Soul
“They may not be perfect, but I believe even in the darkest soul, there’s always hope.”
I don’t think this is something Clark always believed, at least not completely. To be fair, he had to deal with quite a few dark people who never changed. It’s not an easy thing to believe. After seeing so much crime and corruption, how do you believe there’s hope for the dirty businessman? the corrupt politician? the serial killer? How did Clark come to this belief? I think it happened in two ways.
1) He saw what a loss of hope could do to a person.
Clark and Lex Luthor start the series as best friends, their relationship the “stuff of legend”. But as we know, Superman and Lex are archenemies. So how did they get to that point? In Smallville, we see Lex’s dark past and his obsession with power. But those things aren’t enough to change these legendary best friends into mortal enemies. What happens (according to Smallville) is that the trust of the relationship is broken. Lex is too obsessed with the “weird” and unexplainable side of Clark, Clark loses trust in him, false accusations fly, and Lex loses trust in Clark. Lex is alone, and hope is lost. (I blame Smallville Clark for Lex going bad – what do you think?) Clark completely gave up on Lex and believed that a dark soul was just who Lex was. Clark’s and the world’s hopeless evaluation of Lex weighed him down, and it became easy to live up to people’s expectations of him. Clark had to learn the hard way, with lasting consequences, to never lose hope, no matter hopeless a person or situation might seem.
So what about you? After seeing so much pain in your life, how can you believe there’s hope for the person you can’t get along with at work, or the friend who betrayed you, or the family member who can’t seem to say anything kind to you? How do you stay hopeful?
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead...” - 1 Peter 1:3 NIV
We may not be able to see the good in others, but Jesus saw the good in us and gave us hope for a new life. So if we can receive hope to change for the better from Jesus, so can those other people.
2) His family never lost hope in him.
Clark, despite being serious and well-behaved for the most part, still pulled some typical dumb teenage/young adult stunts. Jonathan and Martha were not always entirely impressed with his behaviour. The reason his foolish choices made them so upset, was that they knew he could do and be better. They raised him to be good and kind, and they never lost hope that that is exactly what he would be. Clark’s parents continued to love and encourage him, no matter what. They pushed him – not necessarily to do great things, but to do the right thing.
“People want to believe in something greater.”
I don’t think this is something Clark always believed either, but more because he just didn’t think so philosophically all the time. I know I wasn’t so high-minded in high school (I thought I was...but I wasn’t). But even now, Clark still doesn’t fully understand the gravity of what he’s saying. The “greater” things he’s talking about are things like love, goodness, and hope, which are all good things. I do think people have a desire to believe in those things, to believe that people are good, and there is good in the world. They want to have their faith in humanity restored. Putting our belief in humanity, however, is sure to leave us disappointed. While there is hope for everyone, no one is perfect, and we do not live in a perfect world. But that desire for believing in something greater is still there. There is an inherent desire in us to know the Greatest One, even in those who would reject the idea.
“God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.” Acts 17:27 NIV
Of course people want to believe in something greater. God built us that way. He built us to search for Him. And why is he so great?
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else... ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” Acts 17:24-25, 28 NIV
God is the reason we are alive, and He should also be our reason for living. Even when we don’t know, we are drawn to Him.
Stronger to Love
“and it may be easier to hate, but it’s stronger to love.”
Clark learned a lot about love and hate in his young years, often the hard way, through tumultuous romantic relationships and rocky friendships. His many adversaries throughout the years also added to his experience. Clark saw countless times the painful effects that a loveless past could have on a person. How many of his villains have some sort of tragic backstory? Hate bred hate. It could’ve been so easy to continue that cycle and hate the villains. In his relationship with Lex, he did give in to the easy thing. It takes a strong person to return love for hate, and even our beloved Superman wasn’t always that strong.
We know from our own experience how much easier hate can be – we can just say the hurtful things we want, we can just cut those people out of our lives, we can just write people off. But love – love is the better option.
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” - Luke 6:27 NIV
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” - 1 Peter 4:8 NIV
I know, much easier said than done. We’ve all heard it said that “hate is a pretty strong word.” So what makes love stronger?
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” - 1 John 4:8
If God is the greatest thing we can believe in, and God is love, love is the strongest tool we have to fight our enemies.
As we all know, Superman’s insignia is the Krypton symbol for hope. As he flies through the air, he wants to stand for that value, being a symbol people can look up to. He wants to point people to those greater things, proving their existence and power.
How can you be a Superman – a symbol of hope and love that can point people to Greater things? What things in your life point you to God? Drop your answer down below – I’d love to hear from you!