I’m an X-Men fan, and with the advent of the super hero craze in Hollywood at the moment, from Spidermans, Iron-Mans, and two, unfortunate, attempted Superman resurrections (leave the red cape and boots for Christopher Reeve, friends), the X-Men franchise remains a constant source of solid material paired with exceptional movie-making execution. The latest endeavor into the universe of Professor X’s hero-squad is nothing short of epic. Pressure upon pressure builds as our team attempts to travel back in time to change the present and secure the survival of mutants and, inevitably, the world. The stakes are high, the plot is complicated, and the action is awesome. It’s a great time (probably one of the best).
My one issue is this: we can’t undo the past. We don’t live in the world of the X-Men, and the notion of traveling back into time only brings out the stark reality that we cannot undo what has been done. If we create giant drones that annihilate our only chance of survival, if we nuke our neighbors, if we burn that one bridge, if we say those harsh words to a friend, if we allow our selfishness to run rampant, hurting ourselves and everyone around us, we cannot change the consequences. Our sins, shortcomings, and failures have real consequences, and no Wolverine is going to travel back to our “days of future past” in a last-ditch effort to reverse the evil we brought upon ourselves. As most of our grandmothers or mothers used to say, “We make the bed we lie in.” Movies like this only bring this reality to the forefront, and while the question “can we change our future?” may be helpful, we hit a cement wall when we realize that we cannot change our past; the further we wander from Eden (and we are a long way off and wandering still), the further we are from safety.
I see only two outcomes: despair or hope. At the end of our lives, all of us will end up with inevitable, innumerable regrets and what-ifs. We will have hurt, cheated and taken advantage of loved ones; passed by opportunity after opportunity to use God’s gifts for His glory; not taken chances we should have taken; and done things that we regret. While we may be able to salvage some sort of humanist “well, I did my best” when stretched out on our deathbed, if this is all there is, despair will play a large part in our last, few moments. But we may also hope. While we do not have the option of ultimately remaking our beds, we do have the option of trusting in the One who has known and executed a perfectly well-thought-out, unchallenged plan from the very beginning. As I see it, this is the only option for leaving this world confident, restful, and hopeful. If there is no Sovereign One, the universe is absolutely cruel, and some sort of despair mixed with human arrogance is our only option. The notion of the Sovereign One at the back of all is the only way we can truly hope. Some may answer: “The Universe is cruel! There is no hope. There is only us.” But when something better is offered, why not take it? For those whose eyes are opened, there remains the Truth: “The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations,” (Psalm 33:11).
This leads those who know Him to live life for His glory at this very moment and to ultimately hope in the outcome of the future. For Christians (thanks to Jesus), ours is a bright, bed-remaking present and future resulting in the reversal and elimination of all evil from God’s sight. Christ was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God,” (Acts 2:23), despite His people’s utter attempt at final separation, and Christ did and will accomplish what His Father ordained: the salvation of His stubborn people. For non-believers, however, the future is certain punishment. For those of us who wish we could, as Wolverine, travel back to change the things we have done, it is this truth, now trite but no less true, that can give us hope to live for Him today and leave the past to Him: “we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good,” (Romans 8:28). For those of us who now look at the messy beds we have made, who are attempting to tuck the sheet under the mattress and tidy things up, it is the truth that God is working in Christians “both to will and to work for His good pleasure,” (Philippians 2:13) and that He knows the plans he has for His people, plans for “welfare and not for evil”, to give them “a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 23:11), that can cause us to hope and trust. He has proven His mastery over time and sin with the victory of Christ, and He will prove Himself again when He returns. When we are laden with regret and uncertain of the present and future, the choice is before us: will we despair in the shadow of the X-Men, or will we hope in the light of Christ?