Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Smallville Sunday School Lesson

by Gina Welborn

Over the last few years, watching "Smallville" became a family event. True, I often had to tell the kids to "cover your eyes," but that generally was during commericals for the other shows on the CW network.

In the series finale, two scenes stood out to me. The first was the (later) moment in the story when Lex Luthor killed his half-sister, Tess. Yet before she died, she smeared a neuro-toxin on him that wiped away his memories. In thirty seconds his life flashed before him. Events tramatic, shocking, joyful, and sad. Each moment was a choice.

Good or bad.

Life or death.

Time and time again, Lex choose selfishly. It cost him his relationships with his best friend (Clark), his father, his wife (Lana Lang), and his half-sister. In the end, he had his wealth, had prestige (became Pres of the US), had power, but without those memories to remind him of who he was and of the people he had loved, he had lost his soul. He was alive. A patched-up Frankenstein of a man given his father's blackened heart to live. But without a soul, was he really human?

Reminds me of a TobyMac-Kirk Franklin-Mandisa song: I don't want to gain the whole world, and lose my soul.

Scripture puts it a different way (Matthew 16:21-26 NLT): 

From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead. But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!”

Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?

Is anything worth more than your soul? Not according to Lex. In the end, because of his willful choices, he became the villain. We need memories to remind us of our past mistakes and of our lessons learned.

Clark also had a life-flash-before-his-eyes moment. He'd been hit by Darkseid. Umm, for those of you unfamiliar with Superman lore, Darkseid is badness. Evil intent on destroying mankind. A lion prowling about seeking all who he might destroy.

As Clark's life (technically episodes from throughout the series) flashed around him, what he saw were times of trial and tribulations. Successes and failures. Choices to life selfishly or selflessly.

Listen, even when we choose to turn from our selfish ways, take up our cross, and follow Jesus, we will have people question our actions. From a human point of view, our actions won't make sense. Love your enemies? Doesn't make sense. Turn the other cheek? Doesn't make sense. Leave the battle for God to fight? Doesn't make sense. Love one another as Jesus loved? Doesn't make sense.

In the end, Clark realized everything he went through was a test. Some he failed. Some he passed. Through all, he grew into the man his father wanted him to be. A man of character.

We face tests every day. Someone cuts in front of us while driving. Grocery store clerk charges us for three bags of potatoes instead of one and we don't discover the error until we drive all the way home. Our kids ran off to friends' houses instead of cleaning their rooms like asked . . . again. The computer develops a weird uncontrollable scrolling problem. An editor rejects our manuscript. Our entry doesn't final in a contest. Finances are so tight that we have to cancel the family's summer vacation. Boyfriend dumps us right before the prom. A spouse leaves. A parent dies. A child walks away from his faith and family. Our beloved pet develops an illness that will require a $100-a-month medication, which we don't have, yet the only other choice is euthanasia. People are spreading rumors about us or our kids. Best-friend moves away. Best-friend doesn't want to be friends anymore. We lose our job. We lose an election. We lose a race. We lose a friend's trust.

Life is messy. Life isn't fair. Life just plain sucks sometimes.

Jesus warned, "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows." (John 16:33 NLT)

The apostle Paul didn't just realize and accept that, he found encouragement: "We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance." (Romans 5:3 NLT)
The apostle Peter understood it: "So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world." (1 Peter 1:6-7 NLT)

James did too: "Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing." (James 1:2-4 NLT)

Did you notice what else they all mentioned along with troubles and trials? (Besides endure/endurance.)

Wonderful joy. 
Great joy.

Oh the joy that is set before me. And before you. We have to choose it.

How do you respond to life's tests, trials, and tribulations? 

"Maybe since my life was changed long before these rainy days, it's never really ever crossed my mind to turn my back on you, oh Lord, my only shelter from the storm, but instead I draw closer through these times." ~Mercy Me, Bring the Rain

"I know it seems like this could be the darkest day you've known but believe you me the God of strength will never let you go. He will overcome, I know." ~Steve Fee, Arms that Hold the Universe

Listen to either song here:  

Question of the Day: What scripture or song encourages you during trials?



  1. Wow, Gina! This is a spectacular post. I watched the Smallville finale with my son who has been watching it all of these years (and I on occasion) and could not help but notice all of the themes and lessons that could be used as analogies for the Christian life and I prayed he, too, would notice.

    I had my own trials this week and have had many through the years. I always try to hold on to the truth that God is at the helm and throw off the messages that distract me from that.

    A few of my favorite songs that minister to me during such times:
    Calmer of the Storm by Downhere
    Voice of Truth by Casting Crowns
    His Eye is on the Sparrow

  2. I knew this would be an extra special post.

  3. This is good stuff, and I think it's a secret that we often forget in modern Christianity. We (I) tend to think that if I am going through trials it is a sign that I've hacked off God. I mean, my parents only punished me when I did wrong, right?

    In reality, trials can be a sign of great favor. God is trusting us enough to take us to the next level of spiritual intimacy, because trials force us to turn to him for strength and succor.

    Love the post, Gina!

  4. Excellent post! I must say Dare You To Move (Switchfoot) and While I'm Waiting (John Waller) helps me remember God is always working for me, even in times of struggle when I need to let go of how I think it is suppose to go.

  5. Great post, Gina. Thanks--it encouraged me.

    I often turn to "Times" by Tenth Avenue North ("I don't care where you've fallen, I don't care where you've been. I'll never forsake you, My love never ends, it never ends..."). And TobyMac. His stuff energizes me, and it's nice to know I'm in good company as a Jesus Freak.

  6. Oh Gina, this is such an excellent post!

    Yes, I have trials - some real and some that only seem important. I do have a bit of scripture that's always with me. Over the years I've tried to find some new scripture because everyone knows mine. It's so well-used and not at all unique. But there's a reason for that. It has staying power. It comforts me and gives me peace... It's Prov 3:5&6
    5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
    6 in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight

    I gotta remember that... I gotta remember that...

    Bless you, Gina.

    Anita Mae.

  7. I love this, Gina. Reading this was the perfect way to end a hectic weekend.

  8. Oh, Carla, I like those songs too!!!

    Deb, you're a sweetie. :-) Which is despite you being a Morning Person.

    God is trusting us enough to take us to the next level of spiritual intimacy, because trials force us to turn to him for strength and succor.

    Wow, Lisa!!!

    Lynn, I'm not familiar with either of those songs, but I'll google them in the morning. Thank you for sharing!

    Susie, we're soul sisters.

    Anita, I was reading last night and came across a scripture verse that made me think, "I must memorize this." Yet 24 hours later, I can't remember. *sigh* Will find it and share. Thank you for reminding us, though, of that fabulous verse. I know I needed to be reminded.

    Oh, Suzie, I'm so glad your weekend ended on a high note.


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