Tuesday, May 25, 2010

LOST: Love brings us home

Where do you begin with the end of a good story six years in the telling?

And Lost really was a good story—you know, the kind that explores what it means to be human and tell us something about ourselves, the world we live in, the people around us. In fact, the best stories are true—not that they actually happened but in that they reflect human nature and the way the world works in reality. Lost was like this. And, over the years, one of the things I most deeply appreciated about the series was that all that exploration took for granted that there is a larger context in which we live. As Doc Jensen puts it:
Lost clearly believes that our lives play out in a fundamentally spiritual reality. Lost is asking ''what if?'' What if our actions on this planet counted against some eternal reckoning? How does that possibility change things for you? If that possibility does inspire you to live a better life, then... how? And even before then, what is a ''better life''? Is it doing ''good''? But what is ''good''? Lost doesn't have answers for these questions and the others that they raise — it's just demanding that we ask them and discuss them.

And the ending to this good story that is Lost stayed true to that, with a finale brimming over with religious and spiritual imagery (I loved the shots of the statue of the open-armed Jesus at both the beginning end), language, themes and overt context. But of all the themes present throughout the series that find their way into the finale, the ones with which I (again) resonate most have to do with redemption, love and community.

Like Jensen, I absolutely love what this episode affirms about the life we live here-and-now: it matters. Just before Island Desmond goes down that cave, he tells Jack that he’s seen a better life and that what happens on the Island doesn’t matter. Jack tells him he’s wrong—and Jack’s right, and Desmond knows it by the end of the finale.

In some ways, this aspect of the finale reminds me of Knowing in that both are stories that affirm that life here-and-now is sacred. Both Lost and Knowing suggest that death leads to another existence, a better one, yet each story advoicates going to extreme risks and measures to save and spare the lives here-and-now. Jack’s smile as he watches the airplane fly over with Sawyer, Kate, Claire and the others is a poignant image of the affirmation of life—for which Jack gave the ultimate sacrifice, his own life. Like Knowing, Lost advocates that there is something about life that is valuable enough to continue it here-and-now even though it continues in some form afterwards. And for those that follow Jesus, this is a good challenge to us to consider how much God values the life he created here-and-now.

I also resonated with how the finale supports and affirms that redemption is inexorably wrapped up with and inseparable from our relationships with each other. This strongly echoes Scripture. In The Blue Parakeet, Scot McKnight writes, “God’s idea of redemption is community-shaped.” From Israel to the Spirit-empowered church, says McKnight, God’s covenant community is the context in which redemption takes place—one in which we find reconnection and restored relationship with God, self, others and the world. “Wherever you go in the Bible,” writes McKnight in A Community Called Atonement, “it is the same: the work of God is to form a community in which the will of God is done and through which one finds both union with God and communion with others for the good of others and the world.” In When the Church was a Family, Joseph Hellerman underscores that biblical salvation involves both a relationship with God and his group: “The idea of salvation cannot be reduced to a personal relationship with Jesus. God’s plan is much more encompassing. God intends for salvation to be a community-creating event... B. Witherington eloquently put it this way: ‘The community, not the closet, is the place where salvation is worked out.’”

Lost echoes another important and biblical truth: it isn’t just any relationship or community that helps us work out our salvation and redemption—it is a community in which we love and are loved. Among the most powerful scenes in the finale were those in which the characters recall their relationships—in all their glory and pain—with each other. I literally watched through tears as each character remembers their time on the Island, their faces transforming from confusion and restlessness to inexpressible joy and rest. I especially found the moment between Claire and Charlie a particularly strong image of the transformational power of love in our redemption. In the Sideways world, the Charlie we meet is essentially like he was when we first met him in Season One: lonely, jaded, at the end of his rope and trying to escape his life. But when Claire touches him and the memories flood back, his whole face and demeanor soften, deepen and strengthen; before our very eyes, he transforms and becomes the Charlie we last saw in the underwater hatch, the Charlie who sacrificed his life for those he loved, the Charlie loved by Claire and the other castaways. It was a powerful and beautiful moment (and one that had me choking back sobs).

I believe love is the foundation of redemption. It is where redemption comes from. It is in love that we are redeemed, and it by loving and being loved that we participate in transformational redemption. For it was because of love that God wanted to save the entire world. And above all, Jesus tells us to love—love God and love others, under which all else falls. Yes, love above all else, says Peter, because it makes up for practically anything. And remember, God is love, says John—and that Person who is Love has, is and will swallow all evil even as that Love pours Life into the depths of our very beings.

And perhaps this is where Lost—as groundbreaking as it is in showing the redemptive power of love—doesn’t go far enough when it comes to love’s power over death and evil.

In the Lost finale, we discover the Island literally corks ultimate evil and destruction, keeping it at bay from the rest of the world—and it is up to those who protect it to do what it takes to keep the cork in the bottle. As I watched Jack and then Hurley take over the role, it suddenly made me think of Jesus and the role he took to stand between us and death and destruction—and I suddenly felt a deep and almost overwhelming gratitude that he took that role instead of me.

But as I watched Jack put the cork back in the Island and the light return as the Island’s water—mingled with the blood of Jack’s pierced side—flow into the pool, I realized the image falls short of the full Truth of our reality. For Jesus doesn’t simply cork the hole: he gets rid of the need for a cork in the first place. From the beginning, with a honed, ferocious will to redeem, restore and free us, God set about to rid us of the insidious darkness that infiltrates and threatens to destroy the world and our very souls. Then the beloved mystery that is God-become-flesh walks among us—and the waters of Jesus’ love and blood and resurrection have-are-and-will pour down, overwhelming and then engulfing the whole of evil and death so no cork is needed. That is the power of Love. And when I begin to grasp the kind of Love by which we are loved—and that nothing can separate us from or get in between us and that Love—it takes my breath away.

There were a few other places where I quibble with the finale—like Christian Shepherd’s answer to his son’s question about “where” they were was, frankly, lame and I wish they’d left that a mystery—but there were far more scenes and elements that worked. Personally, I loved Jack’s moment when he realizes and confesses that he’s dead (and how that allowed him to really live). I loved how under the statue of Jesus Locke forgave Ben—and how Ben essentially told Locke to stand up and walk. I can’t imagine what it would be like to experience Jin and Sun’s flood of memories of all that love and pain all at once. Ben’s gratitude for Hurley’s humble and genuine request also made me grateful. And, like Jensen, I found those last 10 minutes almost flawless.

For me, the Lost finale is deeply satisfying. Our beloved castaways are found. Love has brought them home. It isn't really the end but simply the end of the beginning. And in that I hear a resounding echo of the day when Love will bring me home. And a story like that brings the best kind of God-talk into these open spaces.

(Images: ABC, via Hulu)

5 comments:

Don Hendricks said...

Well written and I agree totally. I was all ready for complicated answers to the Darhma initiative and what we got was deeply spiritual.

Jason said...

Thank you, Carmen. Your analysis of what this show has been trying to say is spot on in my opinion. I will be directing everyone I know to you for clarification!

Carmen Andres said...

gentlemen, thank you for your kind words. must admit, i really missed seeing Hurley and the rest last night, but i am grateful for a story well-told.

David Brodsky said...

Maaaan, this was all so well put. I appreciate your words so much. I also believe in the redemptive work of Jesus in each of us individually, as a community, and of this and of the cosmos. Falling in love with the characters who were flawed (just like me) and watching their lives transform along side the communities' transformation, all in order to protect the world from evil has always been what has made the show so special!
Thank you for insight!

db

Carmen Andres said...

"...watching their lives transform along side the communities' transformation, all in order to protect the world from evil has always been what has made the show so special!"

well-said!