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I was fascinated by Superman as a child. I loved the powers he had! I wanted to fly in the sky, be as strong as steel, be able to fire laser beams from my eyes, walk through fire without being burned and rescue people from danger.
As I grew older it dawned on me that Superman was not always aware of these abilities, nor of the reason and purpose for possessing them. At least in the 1978 version of the story called “Superman: The Movie” starring Christopher Reeve, it was apparent that although he had great powers as a child, he did not comprehend the meaning and significance of who he really was and why he had the special gifts he had been given.
The film begins with his father Jor-El and his mother Lara seeing the need to send him to earth to prevent his death due to the impending destruction of the planet Krypton. His father says to him” You will travel far, my little Kal-El. But we will never leave you... even in the face of our death. The richness of our lives shall be yours. All that I have, all that I've learned, everything I feel... all this, and more, I... I bequeath you, my son. You will carry me inside you, all the days of your life. You will make my strength your own, and see my life through your eyes, as your life will be seen through mine. The son becomes the father, and the father the son. This is all I... all I can send you, Kal-El.” While we as movie goers know this background, it is apparent that young Superman did not know his origin and legacy until he became an adult.
As he became an adult, he started to feel the frustration of not knowing what to do with his gifts. He knew his powers were useful for kicking footballs a long distance, for running faster than trains, for jumping high and for impressing other people. His gifts also brought mistreatment from others who were jealous of him. He felt like an oddball. His adoptive father explained to him that he had a purpose for living far beyond these extraordinary gifts. When his mortal father died suddenly, he felt great sorrow at not being able to save him from death. He had great power but could not save the people he loved.
In his mourning and confusion, the crystal which accompanied him on his voyage to earth from Krypton as an infant called out to him. Although he loved his earthly adoptive mother and was sad to leave her, he knew he needed to find out who he really was and what his purpose for living was. He made provisions for his mother and was directed to travel far north. Once he located a suitable spot, far from the view of onlookers, he threw the crystal into a body of icy water and watched what happened. A structure of crystal grew which became his distinctive home and served as a tangible reminder of the true home he had left years earlier and never known.
In this ‘Fortress of Solitude’ he received virtual visits from his biological parents, who were long since dead, but who were then able to instruct him in his identity and mission. In a beautiful personal encounter Clark Kent learned who his first father and mother were and his own origin and name. He now knew he was Cal El, son of Jor-El. For the next twelve years he was educated, trained, and instructed in his true nature and reason for being. This was a place for him to receive knowledge, comfort, guidance, and reassurance. He learned the full measure of what he was capable of and what he could accomplish in helping humanity. In a farewell message, his father says to him “Live as one of them, Kal-El, to discover where your strength and your power are needed. But always hold in your heart the pride of your special heritage. They can be a great people, Kal-El, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you... my only son.” This experience would be pivotal in helping him to craft a life of deep meaning and resolve.
There are great lessons here, especially for those of us who believe in God as our literal Father in Heaven. Without wishing to inject meaning into the story that the creators of Superman and the writers of the 1978 movie script may not have intended, it is evident that there are spiritual parallels worthy of reflection in this fictional story. These are ideas that have resonated with me which I believe are worth contemplating.
It seems apparent that Superman is something of a symbol for Christ although an admittedly imperfect one. He came from parents called by the name of El (which means God in Hebrew). He was the only son of his parents (Christ is the Only Begotten of the Father – 1 Nephi 11:21). He travelled far to come to earth (Christ condescended to be born as a mortal - 1 Nephi 11:16). He had powers and gifts that other people did not (Christ had abilities no other person has ever had including the power to overcome sin and death for Himself and others – Alma 7:11-12). As Superman had to grow into his understanding of his true nature and destiny, so Christ had to develop His comprehension and powers over time and experience (Luke 2:52).
One message of profound interest to me is that it was only by going to a place set apart from the world that Superman could receive a clear understanding of who he really was and what his true mission was. He had to come to see his life through the eyes of his first father and mother. This meant time dedicated to acquiring a shift in perspective at a fundamental level. In a similar, but far more significant manner, Christ needed to experience time communing with His Father in Heaven – such as in the Temple, Wilderness for forty days/nights, Mount of Transfiguration – to learn about His likeness to the Almighty and the mighty connection they shared. Christ needed time to ponder, reflect, think, pray and experience - in sacred places that were holy to the Lord – to come to the full awareness of His divine identity, nature, purpose, and mission. As Superman could not properly be a light of goodness to show humanity a better way without having first gaining a clear comprehension of his own capacity for goodness, so Christ could not do the great work of being an example and Savior to every soul that has ever lived on the earth without first coming to sense deeply His resemblance to the majestic image and likeness of the Supreme Being. Our Redeemer came to know by personal experience that He was seen, known, and loved by His Father. He came to see His life through the eyes of His Father. The viewpoint of His Father was a powerful inspiration to Him.
Similarly, each of us needs to know who we are and whose we are. What is our purpose? We need to see our life, at least partially, through the eyes of our Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son. We need to learn the divine uses for our already recognised powers. We can then also uncover our hidden gifts, undiscovered talents, and latent potential. We require time for quiet solace and careful pondering. This is best accomplished in places without noisy and worldly distraction. Places where the Holy Ghost can whisper to us, where we can study God’s word, where we can think of things divine. Places of natural scenic beauty are important for me to recharge, renew and find clear focus again. I especially rejoice in holy places – homes, chapels, and Temples – as sacred spaces where I have learned my true nature, identity, purpose, and mission. It makes all the difference in the world to me to see how my Father in Heaven and my Savior see me. I love the precious perspective that they offer me!
I invite you to have sacred time in a special place to ask God what magnificent possibilities He sees in you. You will not be disappointed!
The following was written by Thomas Holton, the Author of “Alive in Christ” and “Cultivated by Christ."