I said on Sunday that I wasn’t going to talk about Lost anymore in my illustrations, but I didn’t say I wouldn’t write about it. Ok, even if that is a copout, I can’t get some things off of my brain until I flesh them out, so I wanted to write about some general/thematic elements of the finale of Lost. First, let me state for the record that I thoroughly enjoyed the finale and was completely satisfied with how it ended. I really did not have any nagging frustrations to speak of. I’ll explain more of why I thought they ended it the only way they could have, but I was a big fan of how they brought their story to a conclusion.
Just so you know how I interpreted the finale, I believe that the sideways world was purgatory-esque based on Jack’s conversation with his dad, Christian. I believe that Kate, Sawyer, Lapidus, Miles and Richard all got off the island and lived out their lives. I believe that Hurley and Ben lived out their lives as the next “Jacob” and “Richard” in a way, and I believe that Kate was pregnant with David when she left the island on the plane (which is not essential to the narrative, but I have several reasons why I am led to believe this). So now that you know how I understood the finale, here are some themes that I stood out about the entire series and were also prevalent in the finale.
Weight of Glory
First, I’ve got to say that there are few moments in this life that TV gives you a heightened sense truth in our world, and I feel like Lost did this for me personally over the last few years. I’ve had the same feeling watching the last 10 minutes of Lost that I got in Braveheart and a few other films, and it was this emotion of grief wrapped up in joy and peace. (Side note: The fact that they threw Vincent the dog in the final scene with Jack was just dirty because they knew it would tug at us emotionally. Smart, but dirty.) The best way I can describe Lost, especially the finale, is that it was “weighty.” Another word for this would be “glorious.” The biblical concept of glory carries with it connotations of inexpressible beauty and majesty, but also means to ascribe weight or significance to something. The story that the writers of Lost told added weight to this life and showed how meaningful things are in this world. The beauty of the story also left me longing for something more, which I believe is a sensation that God gives us to hope for eternity with Him. They also built into the narrative our longing for eternity, both through characters like Richard Alpert and also through the closing scene in the church. It was not a “ending” per se, as much as a “moving on” to what’s next. I personally believe that this feeling is based on what Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
I do not believe Lost was an allegory for the Christian faith, but I do think that there was a ton of symbolism that intentionally pointed to the Christian faith (particularly, the person and work of Christ). In the finale, the statue of Christ with his arms out was shown at least twice and there were a number of crosses in the office that Jack entered with the coffin. When Kate was in the car and asked Desmond whose coffin they were waiting on, he said it was a guy named Christian Shepherd. Kate replied, “Seriously?” implying that his name was way too obvious. Even the fact that Jack’s last name was Shepherd and his number assigned to him by Jacob was 23 points to Psalm 23 and Jack being a symbol of “the Good Shepherd.” At the end of his life, he has a pierced side (like Christ), he has scars that carry over into the after life (like Christ), and he is led to lie down “in green pastures” and “beside quiet waters” his soul was restored. (See Psalms 23:2–3) The other Christ-like imagery was seeing victory in Jack’s defeat, other’s being freed through his death (with the image of the plane flying overhead), and even the empty coffin (which may be a bit of a stretch). One other image that was pointed out to me by my friend Taylor was a play on the often-repeated slogan of the show, “Live together, die alone.” Taylor pointed out that Jack died alone so that the group could live together. This is much like the work of Christ who died rejected and alone so that we could live together as a community of believers. Again, I am not saying that Lost was an allegory for the Christian faith, nor do I want them to propagate Christian imagery. However, I do think that it is undeniable that Christian symbolism was built into the entire narrative of the show.
This World Matters
One element of the finale that left me totally satisfied was this: Everything that happened on the island really mattered. I had a fear that they were going to place more emphasis on the sideways world and have the island world be similar to a dream. But what came at the end of the finale was extremely important to the story Lost told and to our lives: what we do in this life really matters and it impacts our afterlife. Romans 14:12 says, “So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” We are accountable for everything we say and do in this life, and these things carry over into heaven. Too often Christians adopt a form of escapism under the guise of being focused on “eternity,” all the while ignoring the fact that eternity begins now. The fact that what happened on the island was real, and the fact that they tied it to their eternal destiny (see Michael Dawson) was noteworthy to me.
While I do believe we are accountable for the deeds we do in this life, Christians believe that there is grace and redemption that cannot be earned; rather it is given through Jesus Christ. I believe we saw grace and redemption for most of the Lost characters. Damon Lindelhof said in an interview for the New York Times, “If there’s one word that we keep coming back to, it’s redemption. It is that idea of everybody has something to be redeemed.” Each character had their shares of struggles and flaws, but in the end they each, in their own unique and personal way, experienced redemption. Jack’s moving on to the afterlife was tied to reconciling with his father. Ben experienced redemption and received grace when he asked Locke for forgiveness and confessed that he was jealous because Locke was special. Each character experienced redemption, grace and forgiveness throughout their story and it was the primary theme of the show.
A big way redemption was experienced on the show came through the idea of “community.” Christian Shepherd told Jack, “The most important part of your life was the time that you spent with these people.” It was no secret that Lost heavily emphasized community. I mentioned earlier that the primary slogan of the show was, “Live together, die alone.” This was underscored in the final scene showing that this community all moved on to the afterlife together. In fact, the point of Desmond rounding everyone up and leading them to “enlightenment” was because they could not move on unless they were all together. What purpose did the community serve on Lost? I think it is found in Damon Lindelhof’s final tweet about the show: “Remember. Let go. Move on.” This also happens to be the purpose of biblical community. Scripture frequently tells us to “remember” God and the work of Christ. To experience redemption in the Gospels, Jesus stresses that individuals must “let go” and die to themselves. All of this is done, as Chris Seay pointed out on his video blog, so that we can “move on” to heaven and live together (with God and others).
The one thing I can brag about predicting on the show way in advance was the final image of Jack’s eye closing (and don’t give me that junk that the plane wreckage on the beach was the last image, because the “Lost” logo had already flashed). I knew that Lost would bring the show full circle and end with the image that it began with. It is a popular theme on a lot of CDs today (such as Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida” and David Crowder Band’s “Church Music” being two of them) to end with the same riff that it began with. If you actually listen to the albums on repeat, there is actually a seamless transition from the last song back to the beginning. It is meant to bring the work of art full circle, so to speak, with a sense of completion and unity. I believe this is, yet again, the story of Scripture and the work that God is doing in our world. Scripture says that God will once again dwell with His people (Revelation 21:3), that God is both the beginning and the end (Revelation 21:6), that we will be able to eat from the tree of life (Revelation 22:14) and that we will no longer be kept out by the symbolic gate keeping us out of Eden (Revelation 22:14). Coming full circle is a much different idea than reincarnation. Reincarnation is similar to a hamster on a wheel going nowhere. It is the idea that you end up back at the beginning not having any control over what happens in your life. Rebirth, which Jesus teaches, is a distinctly different idea. It is the idea that you get a fresh start, get to go back to the beginning and get all things restored back to the way they were intended to be (see Revelation 21:4-5). I thought the imagery and symbolism of the story ending where it started with a sense of completion was superb. There was no better way to end the story, and there will be no better way to end ours as well.
Free Will vs. Predestination
I have always loved the play between free will and predestination on Lost. It is a debate that they handle very “biblically.” In fact, one of my favorite hobbies in the past would be to read message boards and see people talk about how manipulative Jacob was or defend how each person really did have a choice. This is a tension that the Bible contains and does not answer for us, and I believe the creators of Lost meant to continue on that debate. I thought it was a creative twist on this debate when Jacob mother claimed to love Smokey more. It had a hint of Paul in Romans 9:13 when he reminds us of God’s words in Malachi that says: “Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Then there were Jacob’s constant reminders to the characters that they always have a choice in the matter, even when it seemed like they didn’t. I don’t have anything to settle the matter, but I thought this show put a post-modern spin on an age-old debate.
The final thing I have to say about the finale of Lost is that I’m sure it was extremely frustrating and dissatisfying to a number of people that are fans of the show. They did leave some questions unanswered, others open to interpretation, and rarely answered the mysteries presented with a straightforward, black and white response. I tend to believe that this is what made Lost so special. I agree with the camp that says our world is worse off when we get all of our mysteries answered. In fact, when Lost did answer questions in a straightforward manner (like in the second to last episode about Jacob and Smokey’s origins called “Across the Sea”), it came across as pedantic and cheesy. I loved J.J. Abrams’ (one of the original co-creators of Lost) quote on mystery. He said, “Mystery, now more than ever, has special meaning. Because it’s the anomaly, the glaring affirmation that the Age of Immediacy has a meaningful downside. Mystery demands that you stop and consider—or, at the very least, slow down and discover.” To me, that is what the show was about. It was about discovering what you believe and why you believe it. It was about exploring faith in a world that’s not always black and white. And it particularly spoke to me in the sense of not always explaining things on the show. This is how life is, and this is often how God operates. It is as the Apostle Paul says 1 Corinthians 13:12, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
For a show that so often found characters looking into mirrors, I have to think there is significance to these moments in life. These are the fleeting moments when we know there is something more going on around us. These are the moments where we know that our world is a special place, not unlike the island on Lost. These are the moments that we realize there is a real enemy, and we have a part to play in defeating evil in our world. This is the value of Lost to me personally: It is a show about characters finding redemption, fighting evil despite being fallen creatures, experiencing community, awakening to the spiritual forces in our world and moving on to the afterlife. What more can you ask for from a TV show?
I wanted to close this blog with a challenge to you. I challenge you, as I have frequently challenged people in our church, to find different mediums in culture to point to the person and work of Jesus Christ. I believe that the Christian story told in the Bible is true in every sense of the word. I believe that this truth is written to the core of our universe. And I believe that any time there is a compelling story of sacrifice, love and community, that there is an opportunity to point others to God. There are so many fascinating books, movies, TV shows, pieces of artwork and albums in our world that all point to God’s story of redemption through Jesus. I challenge you to find those things in the culture around you, enjoy them, debate them with friends, and look for the deeper significance in them so that you can share your insight with those around you. This is our job as Christians, and what a joy it is share our story with others.