Lost in Thought

I stayed up late last night watching it and woke up early this morning thinking about it. Of course I’m talking about the Lost finale. If you’re not a Lostie then you can stop reading now. If you haven’t seen the finale yet, you probably ought to bookmark this post and move on as well.

I’ve read a variety of reactions to the finale online and can’t help but throw my two cents into the fray. I know what I want to say, but I’m not sure how long it will take or what route I’ll use to get there, but like the series itself, I will get there in the end.

Overall, I found it to be a satisfying finale on a number of levels.

From a narrative standpoint, I think Darlton did about as well as they could do with the sprawling narrative they’d created over the past six years. Unlike so many critics, I’m going to cut them some slack in this area because I think there are few things harder than bringing an epic tale to a satisfying end. How many times has it been done? The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter come to mind.

How many great narratives have been started with a bang only to fizzle out before the end? I’ve been disappointed by a number of stories like The X-Files, The Matrix movies, and John Twelve Hawks’ Fourth Realm Trilogy. Recently, I’ve learned to turn my disappointment into a question: if I were telling this story how would I have finished it? I usually come to the conclusion that I can’t come up with a better ending than the one that has already been told. At first, I didn’t like the way Stephen King ended his Gunslinger series, but the more I thought about it, the more I came to appreciate that it was the necessary ending to the story he had been telling.

In most epics there are a limited number of options for how to bring closure anyway. In a good vs. evil epic, either good wins out and everyone lives happily ever after or you reset the cycle and things continue with a new cast of characters. Jack and Kate kill the smoke monster and everyone moves on to something else, or Hurley takes Jacob/Jack’s place and Ben throws a fit and gets himself thrown into the cave of light and becomes a new smoke monster. Instead of the final shot being Jack dying a sacrificial hero’s death, we get Hurley and Ben sitting on the beach and Ben saying to Hurley, “Do you have any idea how badly I want to kill you? (fade to black)

I know there were lots of questions left unanswered, but again, how can you tell an episodic epic story that must have a dramatic arc in every installment without introducing some mysteries that play well in the present moment, but ultimately don’t fit into the larger narrative?

I’ve done this before as a preacher, if only on a slightly smaller scale (he says with a wink). It used to be that my favorite sermon in a series was the first one. That would be the sermon where I would throw out a bunch of questions and teasers and try to get everyone interested in what I’d be talking about over the next six weeks. I’d bring up lots of problems and then promise to solve them with a careful exposition of Philippians or some other section of scripture. People would leave the service excited and saying, “This is going to be a great series. Can’t wait til next week.” Invariably, as the series progressed, I found it far easier to introduce questions than to answer them. My solutions weren’t nearly as exciting as were my descriptions of the problems I used as a hook. What began as a roar would conclude with a whimper. Luckily, most people don’t geek out on a sermon series the way fans of a TV show do, so no one ever seemed to notice that I’d finish the series without ever dealing with all the stuff I brought up at the beginning. I was incapable of tying up all the loose ends of a six week series. Can you imagine how hard it would be to tie up the loose ends of a story you’ve been telling for six years? Impossible. I don’t care who you are. Let the critics of Lost tell their own stories and do a better job of it.

Besides, are you sure having all your questions answered would leave you any more satisfied than you already are?

One of my favorite things about the reunion scene was that in the end, the questions the characters had about their experiences seemed to be unimportant. They didn’t get all of their questions about the island answered any more than we did, but none of that seemed to matter. What really counted was that they were together again. The unanswered questions were overwhelmed by the beauty of the light and their love for each other.

This reminds me of a challenge from John Stackhouse in his brilliant book, Can God be Trusted? He challenges the notion that someday in heaven we’ll get an answer to all of our questions about why God allowed certain things to happen in our lives. Where in Scripture does it say that eventually God will sit down with us and explain it all? If we think of heaven as a place where we’ll finally get some answers, we could be sorely disappointed. It may be that when we’re reunited with those we love in the new creation, the questions about who? and why? and how? will be neutralized by the light of God’s glory. I’m preparing myself for this possibility by not freaking out about all the unanswered questions I still have about the island.

Speaking of questions, one of the questions about heaven that used to bother me when I was a kid was whether or not we’d recognize each other on the other side. I remember thinking that heaven didn’t seem like that great of a place if you wouldn’t know anyone when you got there. The early flash-sideways scenes were intriguing, but it was also empty and odd to see these characters who shared so much history together bumping into each other with no sense of recognition. Of course this was a set-up for the payoff of the recognition scenes in the finale. Those scenes gave me an imagination for what it might be like someday to recognize our old traveling partners in the new creation and in a flash of recognition have the sum total of our shared experiences come together in a gestalt of joy from being together again.

Probably the most interesting thing of all was listening to Jimmy Kimmel try to summarize the teachings of Christianity on his show after the finale. I’ll have more to say about that later and what I’ll say will change your life forever.

How’s that for a teaser?


  1. Good stuff Wade, the Lost Finale has haunted me since I’ve watched it. I found myself thinking the same thing, for me, it operated as a parable about the Restoration of All things. Death gives back what it owes. The people I know who were upset about the ending all wanted what you are talking about…answers. But they didn’t give us that (at least not enough for a lot of people), they gave us beauty.

    Anyway, glad to know you geeked out a bit as well. We loved it.

  2. Wade – I’ve been reading your posts the past several weeks on a “blog feed” and while it’s great to keep up with you that way (and on FB), I’ve missed being able to comment, so I’ve got you bookmarked here on my new iMac, as well.

    I LOVE your take on the Finale of LOST. You’ve succinctly (don’t you like THAT word?!) put into thought and writing what I’ve been muddling over in my head, but could not get out coherently.

    Tom & I were moved by the ending for several reasons, but mostly, I think, because of those we’ve lost in our lives. Especially, his younger daughter, Kim, who died suddenly and w/o warning a couple of months after she turned 33 in 2002, leaving a little daughter, 4.

    Tom is a Christian, but through the circumstances of his life has somewhat of a “weak” faith. It is things like the LOST finale that give him hope for us all to be together again after this life. For that, I was very thankful.

    I know it didn’t depict how heaven will REALLY be, but then who knows? It was wonderful in the redemption of loves some thought were lost forever.

    Thanks for your thoughts today on LOST. Looking forward to your thoughts to come on Jimmy Kimmel, that are going to change my life forever! I could use that!?! 😉

    Dee Andrews

  3. Jonathan and Dee–thanks for the kind words of encouragement. It really was a great way to end the story.

  4. Rick McGinniss says:

    Just found your site cruising the net for Lost info. I’ve become a Lost junkie over the last year.

    Great take on the “questions in Heaven” and also the first week of a sermon series setting up “what I’m gonna tell ya.” Happy to know I’m not the only one who has done that.

    I’m about to pull the trigger on a LOST sermon series in June (a radical last minute switch from what I was planning.) First one would be titled “What The #%$*@ Just Happened?” based on Kimmel’s opening segment. It would deal with the concept of mystery – what God chooses to reveal and not, and how that might actually be good news.

    I’m looking forward to your next post on the subject!

  5. Darin Campbell says:

    Wade – I agree, it was a great ending which I loved. In reading the comments from others, I came across this from a NY Times reader. I think he absolutely nails it:

    “LOST was perfect. Here’s why.

    I live on a very peculiar island, and though I’ve been here for a long while now, I know almost nothing about it. I don’t know the reason I am here, nor do I know if there’s even a reason to be known. One day I opened my eyes, and here I was—knowing nothing and knowing no one, ignorant of all that had come before.

    And I learned that this island was a place of strange science: I found out that I was spinning through space at thousands of miles per hour; my island hurls itself around a giant ball of light about a quarter of a million miles every day. And I learned that this island was a place of strange faith: ab aeterno, since time immemorial, men and women had put their trust in a man they couldn’t see or hear, believing he had brought them here for a purpose. The faithful built temples and statues in his honor, they killed for him and they died for him. The scientists didn’t believe he existed at all, declaring instead that they were only here as a result of a chain of meaningless circumstances—of accidents. Everyone who has ever been here has had the same questions: what is this place, and why am I here? People have tried to answer it in different ways; some have conducted experiments and dug into the earth in search of the truth, while some have put their faith in the belief that a higher power has rendered them special and purposeful. No one has ever come close to knowing, and many, many times we have gone to war to control this place. Knives, then guns, then bombs, in holy war.

    And a man named John Locke told us that we were born tabula rasa, our mind a blank slate. He told us that nature demanded egalitarianism. A man named Carlyle said that “everywhere the human soul stands between a hemisphere of light and another of darkness; on the confines of the two everlasting empires, necessity and free will.” A man named De Groot debated fate and free will; when he died, his last words were this: “by understanding many things, I have accomplished nothing.” A man named Hume debated the same things, and determined that “a false sensation or seeming experience” could explain what we believe to be choices—only later do we realize that our choices were necessary all along. His rival, Rousseau, believed that man was a noble savage; before he went insane, he wrote of self-preservation that “patience is bitter but its fruit is sweet.” Some believed that a Good Shepherd laid down his life to save us, and that a Christian would rise again after death.

    LOST was beautiful because it was about an island exactly like mine. Everyone dies, and one day I’ll die, like you, not knowing what this has all meant. We can ask the question (and Charlie put it best: “guys, where are we?”) all we want, but our existence is special because the earth is incomprehensible and magical, and no amount of faith and no amount of science will ever truly enlighten us. If you thought LOST was weird, well, it’s certainly no weirder than life. You think a sentient cloud of electric smoke is over the top? I think the fact that a screen in my apartment is currently showing me a live baseball game being played in Florida is, in a vacuum, no less incredible. Science fiction is relative: if you had never heard of the internet, or giraffes, or rainbows, you’d think those were science fiction too. Of course LOST was strange in its details, but those characters’ fears and moments of wonder were in many ways just like our own.

    I love the way LOST ended. It resolved all questions the way they are resolved in our own lives. Dead is dead. Whatever happened, happened. Some things are irreversible, and you can’t fix the past. My favorite moment of the entire series came at the end, in the space between life and death, when Ben and Hugo told each other what a great job the other did as #1 and #2. Like Jacob and Richard, they must have protected the island for wonderful centuries together—and we never got to see it. And we never got to see it because we’re Jack. And the question we always wondered—the question we always will wonder—remained. What is this place, and why were we here? And they answered that too, in the most beautiful way imaginable: you don’t get to find out.

    You don’t get to find out. There is fear, and death is a monster, and life is a monster, and there will always be others out there in the woods. But there is love, and we have friends, and as long as we are here we can believe whatever we like and make our choices and find the things that we can. But hail mystery! Some things can’t be found, because the most important things are lost. What is life? The reason we’re here? The thing we fight over, the thing we protect? What is death, and what happens after The End? You don’t get to find out.

    So you can let go now, Jack.”

    From: http://community.nytimes.com/comments/douthat.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/05/24/the-lost-finale/?sort=oldest&offset=2 (#31)

  6. Darin–that is a great take–thanks for sharing.

    Rick–thanks for stopping by the blog.Sounds like a fun series. Just make sure you hook em with the first message. 🙂

  7. My daughter is a big fan of Lost. I didn’t watch it. Does that mean I still get to go to heaven? LOL.

  8. Shannon says:

    I think that part of what makes people so bored with church services and church life and maybe why so many people leave churches is that our churches so often take all the mystery and magic out of our faith. They answer too many questions and don’t leave anything to imagination. What we love about story is the mystery. And we do serve a BIG and unpredictible, mysterious God. So why do preachers feel like they need to get everything down to seven steps that all start with the letter P? The very best thing they could do is leave people with questions unanswered to think about. To introduce a metaphor and not explain it.

    I for one hated it when we got the answer of what are the whispers in this season. Michael was just like “yeah they are dead people.” Which is what I thought but I wished he could have left just a little mystery there, or at least introduced another question.

Speak Your Mind


Have you Subscribed via RSS yet? Don't miss a post!