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The Flash & the Past

I’m a big fan of the Flash. I read the comics; I watched the cartoons and the 1990 Flash TV show! I love the Flash, and why not? He’s fast, he’s funny, and he can eat whatever he wants without packing on an ounce. 

When I saw the trailer for the DCEU’s The Flash, I assumed they were adapting the Flashpoint Paradox arc, and that the lesson at the end was going to be about the needs of the many versus the needs of the one. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised when I learned that the movie was about changing ourselves by learning from the past rather than being ruled by it.

In The Flash, Barry (Ezra Miller) travels back in time so that his mother can survive an attack that took her life. In doing so, he changes both the past and present dramatically. After Barry succeeds in saving his mother, he returns to his own time, only to be attacked by a time wraith. He exits the time stream several years in the past. As a result, Barry is thrown together with a younger, alternate-timeline self—someone who hasn’t been shaped by the fires of trauma and hardship. 

The two join forces with Michael Keaton’s older, wiser Bruce Wayne and an inexperienced Supergirl (Sasha Calle) to take on Zod in his destructive rampage. At the climax of the battle, the Flashes are faced with a choice: Do they turn back time yet again (and again, and again, and again) to win the battle, or does Barry undo what started this chain reaction in the first place by allowing his mother to die?

© DC Studios

I know I’ve had (non-time-bending) experiences where I’ve had to deal with the fallout of dumb decisions. I’ve faced a moment where telling the truth would cost me more than avoiding it, so I lied. And when that lie unraveled, I lied again to cover it up. I’ve had a relationship that hit a rough spot, and it was easier to just walk away than to figure out what went wrong. The next time I was in a relationship, it was even easier to throw in the towel. Even in my relationship with God, who sees through all the smoke and mirrors, I still find myself struggling with the same things over and over again. 

In the Old Testament, the people of Israel have a cyclical relationship with God. When Israel finds themselves enslaved by their enemies, they cry out to God, who sends a deliverer. The deliverer (such as a prophet or judge) frees the people, but they soon turn back to their old ways, only to find themselves enslaved again. 

Similarly, in the New Testament, we see Jesus ministering to a people who have been shackled by a corrupt religious system. This system was put in place to help the Israelites, but instead it has become a rod of power in the hands of broken men. The religious leaders demand a strict following of the law and when the people come up short they are told to try harder. As a result, no one ever attains the impossible standard of perfection.

Even the apostle Paul, in Romans, feels bound by cycles of bad decisions when he writes, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” (Romans 7:15 NLT).

With a legacy like this, is there any hope?

© DC Studios

In The Flash, Barry realizes that he has made a mistake and travels back to his mother’s death to stop himself from altering the past. By undoing his previous actions, everything goes back to what it was meant to be. We don’t have the same time-altering abilities that Barry has, but we do have a powerful example of how we can respond to vicious cycles through King David of the Bible.

David is believed to be one of the greatest kings that Israel ever had, but in 2 Samuel, he is far from perfect. He shirks his duties to his country by staying home during a time of war. Then, he takes the wife of one of his best friends into his bed. When she becomes pregnant, he chooses a deceptive and destructive path that eventually leads to murder. 

This reminds me of The Flash because, like Barry, David has to make more and more adjustments to cover up his mistakes. Barry’s goal is to save his mom; David’s is to look good in the eyes of his people. I am thankful that in 2 Samuel 12:13, David acknowledges his actions and asks for forgiveness. He moves forward rather than trying to alter the past.

David is far from perfect, but the Bible calls him a man after God’s own heart. I think that he earns this accolade after the events in 2 Samuel. Rather than feeling defeated by his past mistakes, he does his best to honor God with his present. David, like Barry, leaves the past behind him, instead choosing to focus on how he can change the future. We have that same choice.

I don’t want to feel defeated when I think about mistakes in my past. Instead, I want to remember that God is for me, and that my future is full of hope. My past doesn’t control my present, and it definitely doesn’t determine my future. Even if that seems daunting or uncomfortable, know that you are never alone. Jesus loves you and is with you always.

“Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.”
1 Peter 5:7 NRSV

CJ Burroughs is a husband, dad, and pastor from North Central Florida. His favorite nerd interests are Star Wars, superheroes, and video games. CJ is also the host of the NextGen Nerd Podcast at nextgennerd.com.

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