Digging in Deeper: Revelation 21:4

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

What would you do if you could suddenly go back in time at a point some of your biggest tragedies in life unfolded? The answer to that seems fairly obvious: you’d do whatever you could do to change them so they didn’t ever happen. We all have things from the past we would change if we got the chance. This is an awareness that can become a desire which, if we’re not careful, can become a fixation that keeps us from moving forward in the present. Dwelling in the past turns out to be far more dangerous than it seems. A recent series from the Hallmark Channel explores all of this and more. Let’s talk today about The Way Home.

The Hallmark Channel has a well-developed reputation for cheesy love stories that are incredibly formulaic, but typically very family friendly. That family friendly part has ebbed a little bit in the last few years thanks to their abandoning their refusal to add gay and lesbian storylines (which in most cases just means they’ve started being more explicit that the main female character’s best guy friend in whom she has no sexual interest at all is gay; everyone has known he’s the token gay characters for years, they’ve merely finally started being more direct about acknowledging it), their increasing willingness to show the characters drinking alcohol, and starting to add a few stronger hints at sexual elements that would be front and center on other networks than they used to include. Oh, and they release about 1,000 of these movies over the months of October through December.

Almost ten years ago, though, Hallmark finally took the plunge and began introducing some scripted series instead of sticking with only old, syndicated content alongside their endless stream of romantic comedies. The first of these was Chesapeake Shores which came to an end after six seasons last year. This spring they’ve added two more of these to their lineup. One is a modern, western-themed series set just outside of a wildly implausibly characterized Boulder, CO called Ride that is still running through its first season. The other is The Way Home.

The Way Home is – and I can’t believe I’m saying this about anything from Hallmark – a science-fiction series about a mother and daughter (Kat and Alice) who return to the mom’s small hometown somewhere on the Canadian coast after she and her husband separate. The series explores three primary relationships. The first is her estranged relationship with her own mom (Del, played by the apparently ageless Andie McDowell) who is still living on the farm where she grew up. The second is her relationship with her teenage daughter. The third is her finally budding relationship with her childhood best friend (Elliott) who has always loved her, but about whose affections she has been totally clueless for years until this entirely too-convenient moment (more on that in a bit). It is a science-fiction series because it revolves around a pond on the farm that allows people to time travel through it.

The first character to discover the pond’s powers is Alice who falls in toward the end of the first episode and finally gets out only to discover that she has journeyed through time to 1999 which her mom was her same age. This glimpse into her family’s blissfully happy past seems at first like it is going to be a blessing. She quickly becomes best friends with her mom’s teenage self. This is the source of the first major plot hole as it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that her mom in the present is completely clueless (until later in the series when she starts doing her own time traveling) that her teenage best friend after whom she names her own daughter (and, yes, that means her daughter was named after her…daughter) looks exactly like her now-teenage daughter. Also, this friend Alice would keep randomly popping up during the year for short periods of time, and then disappearing for months, only to pop up again later, and no one questioned her story and why she was always alone.

The brain hurting part of all of this is that although Alice is time traveling from the present, all of her visits to the past actually happened in the past and are part of her mom’s history. Alice was present for many of the most significant moments in her mom’s life. She even falls in love with a friend of her mom’s in the past. This makes for a humorous and wildly awkward moment when she finally meets him in the present…as a 40-year-old man.

For the first part of the season, the only person besides Alice who knows what’s going on is her mom’s best friend, Elliott, who was also a science nerd (and has grown up to be the local high school’s science teacher), and who Alice told about her situation in the past and has grown up with the knowledge of all her visits, which he kept written down in a notebook, as his own, personal burden to bear. Her telling him about his future actually served to lock him into a path that he was stuck walking whether he wanted to or not.

The other major element of the plot is the tragic and mysterious disappearance of her younger brother (Jacob), and the tragic death of her father (Colton) in a car accident a few months later. Jacob’s disappearance shattered Kat’s family. He disappeared one night entirely without a trace. And even when Kat begins time traveling and winds up there on the night he disappears, walks him to her house and watches him walk safely inside, only to discover when she gets back to the present that he still disappeared that night. The season’s end finally pointed to the answer to this riddle (and in a way, I don’t mind bragging, I predicted after the first episode) which looks to be explored in the second season, but the past didn’t change.

In the same way, Kat sought to prevent the death of her father. But in a deeply ironic tragedy, her efforts to thwart it wound up being the very thing that caused it in the first place. As Elliott, who has, of course, become her love interest by the end of the season (although in a wicked twist for a Hallmark series, he tells her he doesn’t want to pursue a relationship at the end of the season), tells her over and over again, the past has happened and can’t be changed. This is actually an idea about time travel borrowed from Avengers: Endgame, where they argue that time is linear. If someone from the present goes to the past with the goal of changing it, their actions become part of the past in such a way that nothing in the present would change because the past has already happened. To put that in other terms, this view of time travel is the antithesis of the Back to the Future movies and others in that same vein.

As a series, I was actually pretty impressed with this one. The acting was generally really good and not terribly campy. The plot was reasonably nuanced and fun. It got heavy at times, but there was a good bit of humor to keep things lively. It was Hallmark, of course, and was only going to break from those shackles so much. Some of the places it broke I didn’t care for all that much (especially since we watched the second half of the season with our two oldest boys), but others wound up making it a really compelling series.

I think the thing that most stood out to me in terms of where all this intersects with the Christian worldview is the question of how the past affects the present and determines our future. The Christian worldview played almost no obvious role in the series at all. None of the characters exhibit even the slightest amount of faith in anything. In fact, when they were talking about the pond through which they were doing their time traveling, they kept speaking about it as if it was somehow sentient. The pond decided when they were going to be able to time travel and to what time they were going to be able to go. For a culture without a clear vision of hope for the future, though, the idea that we can go back to the past and do things that could possibly affect our present, to make it better, is a pretty compelling one.

In the series, Kat tries desperately to do this, but fails time and time again. She just wants to fix her past tragedies so her present can be redeemed. Yet there is no way for this to happen. In order to find the peace she is seeking, she is going to have to find it in the present. She is going to have to reconcile with the past and not try to fix it. And, honestly, but for the glimmer of hope in solving the mystery of where Jacob went in the closing seconds of the last episode, the whole season is really hopeless. Indeed, the world apart from the Christian worldview is really hopeless.

The series is right that we can’t change the past. But the hope we have in Christ is that our good and powerful God can redeem it, making what was tragic into something that brings Him glory and us joy. And, we have the hope of a future that will be good beyond all reckoning, a future in which all the brokenness of sin will be gone forever, replaced by the glories of the kingdom of God. That will indeed be a very good day. It is a day in which we can have hope. If you are feeling stuck in the past, know well that you’re not going to change it. Ever. What has happened has happened and there’s nothing you can do about it any longer. But rather than being trapped by it, give it over to the God who can redeem it. Follow His commands to forgive where you need to, seek forgiveness where that is necessary, and live out of His love in the present. As you trust yourself to Him and His way of life, He will take you faithfully forward toward a future that will be bright indeed.

2 thoughts on “Digging in Deeper: Revelation 21:4

  1. Thomas

    As the count is now 2 to 1 women vs. men here at the Meadors hacienda we watch our share of rom coms and Hallmark. And you’re right, about 80% have the token gay guy who gives sage advice to the girl. The majority of the movie either has the gay guy struggling to reach out to another guy ( sometimes also gay, often not sure if he’s gag but , newsflash, he is) of at the prom dance/wedding /party/bar mitzvah the gay seer also finds true love and everyone lives happily ever after. Uggghhhh.


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