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Understanding Superman

Understanding Superman

If you were to look closely at one of my preschool pictures, you would notice that underneath the plaid, button-up western style shirt that I am wearing, there is a light blue tee. The casual observer might not find anything unusual about a young man with an undershirt, but ah … with a little imagination and a lot of squinting one may begin to see traces of a red, yellow, and blue seal on my chest. You see, from a very young age, I believed myself to be SUPERMAN!

As a young lad it was difficult to keep my identity under wraps. How can a child with wings not use them to fly? Consequently, I could be found soaring around my Grandmother’s house, showing off my right bicep to anyone who would look my way. I was amusing and annoying I’m sure.

My beloved wife inaugurated the advent of my 27th year by throwing me a Superman party. Among my gifts were DVD’s, superhero ornaments, a superhero cookie cake and a brand new Superman t-shirt. She did this for obvious reasons. You see, I am Superman … again.

Warner Brothers released a new TV show a few years ago that rekindled my love for the Superman story. Smallville focuses on the Man of Steel’s early years. The show finds Clark Kent, not in Metropolis, but in a small farm town. He’s not yet in tights but is growing up, struggling with adolescence, and trying to find his identity.

Strangely enough, as a four-year-old child, I found myself captivated by the thirty-year-old invincible man in tights, who flew around Metropolis saving the world from its most evil villains. But as a 27-year-old man with a master’s degree, I am fascinated with the boy Kent. It’s his story that fills my heart with hope every Wednesday night at 9:00.

That last sentence just might disturb some of you. “Clark Kent fills your heart with hope”? What about Jesus? Walk with me a moment. As young children we need superheroes. We want to believe that they exist and more importantly, that we could be one. They are beyond human.

Every morning as I look in the mirror, my humanity stares back at me. My hair is turning grey, my waistline can’t handle afternoon nachos anymore, and facial lines are beginning to form. Moreover, I am inwardly normal. If you were to open up the fleshly shell and peer deep into my soul, you would see only the ordinary. I am a man. There was a point in time when that reality seeped into me. At another point I began to embrace it. I count the latter point among the most profoundly transformative of my life.

(Back to the Farm)

In almost every episode, Clark Kent discovers something new about himself, something that most of us already knew. He can’t be hurt, he can see through walls, and he can leap tall buildings in a single bound. Big deal – he’s Superman! The real story: he struggles with his parents. He breaks into a cold sweat every time he tries to share his feelings with Lana. He fights with his friends. He fails. He doesn’t know who he is, and what he does know, he can’t really share with anyone. He is trapped by his own giftedness. He is so much more than anyone knows, and so much less than anyone thinks. Clark Kent is my hero.

This is really the end of my thought, but I think that somehow, this thought shadows some of my feelings about Jesus. As I steadily approach my thirties, it comforts and inspires me to think of Jesus as human. I do not deny His divinity. For example, I would never attempt to say that Clark Kent was not at the same time Superman, but again, what I’m finding more and more profound, is that Superman was always Clark Kent, simultaneously. Jesus can truly identify with this. I can more than admire him; I can befriend him. There’s something very beautiful about that.

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