Something happened on Lost last night that, though not obviously and directly related to the themes of fate and freewill, has profound spiritual significance and so is worth writing about. This episode centered on one of the main characters, Jack Shepherd. Jack is an accomplished spinal surgeon and the de facto leader of the survivors of Flight 815. His deceased father was also a successful surgeon and one of the defining characteristics of Jack’s soul is his deep drive to please his father coupled with a sense that nothing he does is enough.
In this episode, we meet, I believe for the first time, Jack’s teenage son. We learn quickly that the same dysfunctionalities that characterize Jack’s relationship with his father are also true of Jack’s son’s relationship with him. Both have grown up distant from their fathers because of a deep, abiding fear of disappointing them. There is a beautiful, redemptive piece in this episode when Jack achieves a measure of reconciliation with his son after his son’s amazing piano audition for an elite music conservatory (Jack did not even know about the audition, nor that his son was even active on the piano, but discovered it accidentally). His son didn’t want him to know because he did not want to live under the pressure of failing to please his father in his performance. In response, Jack assures him of his commitment and unconditional love, saying with tears, “In my eyes you can never fail: I just want to be part of your life.” These words of assurance completely change his alienated son’s disposition and restore fellowship.
This theme of “Type-A” males (and even females) driven to succeed in order to prove their worthiness and please their fathers is common in literature and psychological analysis. Scripture provides an explanation for this aspect of the human condition and an anecdote for it. Because of original sin, a condition we all inherit from our parents, all of us live with a profound sense of insecurity that we do not belong, that we are outsiders, separated from the center and source of life – God himself. This sense of alienation, the fear of being an outsider, drives us to impress others in order to gain assurance that we do belong and are worthy to be included and accepted as insiders. For most of us, at least in childhood, we look primarily to our parents for such assurance. But now matter what we do, how much we accomplish, and who we impress, this cosmic sense of alienation remains.
The biblical remedy for this condition is assurance from God of salvation. Salvation is a state of being forgiven of sin, reconciled to God our heavenly father, and accepted into the family of God as sons. It gives us the kind of relationship Jack craved from his father, and offers his own son, in which we are absolved of the fear of failure because God accepts us by grace, not because we are worthy, and in which God delights in us personally in a love relationship. God has provided the way for reconciliation through his only true Son who willingly became an outsider, rejected by His Father on the cross in our place, so that we could become insiders.
When we experience this reconciliation to God our sense of alienation from the center of the universe becomes more and more replaced with a sense of inclusion and access to the center. Only with this kind of assurance of acceptance by God can we begin to realize and live out consciously a larger plan and purpose for our lives, which is what the characters in Lost are seeking on the island.