The theme of trust was prominent once again in this week’s episode of Lost (“The Candidate” – 5/4/10). The malicious yet shrewd Man-in-Black (MIB) has to deceive his followers into trusting him. In a dramatic scene in which the good primary characters are trapped together in a submarine with a ticking time-bomb, Jack Shepherd, the main protagonist, insists that the MIB, who planted the bomb, cannot kill them directly but can only deceive them into killing each other. As he pleads with Sawyer not to try to diffuse the bomb, he says, “We are going to be okay; you just have to trust me.” Ironically, in the “flash sideways” parallel universe, the real Locke shares with Jack about how he convinced his father to trust him and fly with him on his first flight as a licensed pilot. The result was a crash that injured his father’s brain permanently. This conversation is in the context of Jack trying to win Locke’s trust to perform a cutting-edge surgery to heal his spine and make him walk again.
In my last post on the topic of trust, I raised the question of the relationship between trust and choice: clearly who or what we trust influences our choices; do our choices also affect who we trust? When we are faced with a trust decision I believe at least two choices are involved and are inextricably linked: the choice to trust followed by the choice to act on that trust. When my children are questioning a decision I have made that they cannot understand and I insist that they trust me, the trust they have in me entails specific actions I have commanded them to do. I often ask them “Do you trust Daddy? Do you trust that I want good things for you?” They never say no (though I know that will change as they age) but sometimes their behavior is inconsistent with the claim to trust: they demonstrate a lack of trust by not following my will.
Jack Shepherd has undergone a long but deep transformation from one who lives by reason and trusts in himself to one who lives by faith in a larger purpose and plan for his life. He is convinced now that he was brought to the island for a purpose. This faith gives him confidence other characters lack – confidence that a pack of explosives planted in a closed submarine cannot harm them. Sawyer is confronted with the choice to trust Jack, and thus trust the same larger purpose, and not try to diffuse the bomb (Jack believes doing so would play into MIB’s plan to kill all of them at once). Because he does not trust Jack, Sawyer chooses to diffuse the bomb, causing the timer to decline even faster. The consequences are disastrous: the bomb goes off (they are shielded from the blast by Sayid’s sacrificial act) and while some escape others die.
While Sawyer obviously makes a choice about what to do with the bomb, and his choice reflects distrust in Jack and his view of the island, I wonder if his choice not to trust is the same sort of choice. Or whether he instead reflects on the state of his heart to determine he does not have faith and then acts accordingly. Sawyer’s lack of faith in Jack, after all, has been shaped by experiences beyond his capability to control. Chiefly, he blames Jack for the death of his love, Juliette, who died trying to ignite the hydrogen bomb (Jack’s idea). His abandonment as a child by his parents certainly contribute to his lack of faith. In other words, his lack of faith in this particular moment does not appear to be the consequence of a singular choice made in that moment, but is shaped by prior experiences and previous choices that have affected his heart.
The capacity for self-reflection is a mysterious character trait of creatures who have been given souls, i.e. mankind. We have an uncanny ability to think about ourselves, evaluate ourselves, make sense of ourselves that other creatures lack. We can think about our thinking – is it logical, imaginative, clear. And we can think about our actions – are they fair, kind, moral? This self-awareness I believe is one way that we image God in our nature. God is supremely self-aware: He reflects on the excellency of His being and delights in His own glory (when we do this it is pride and vanity; but God can only respond this way to Himself). Even the awareness within the persons of the Trinity of each other – the Father knows the Son, the Son knows the Father, etc. – is analogous to this human self-consciousness (famed theologian Jonathan Edwards has written extensively on this topic).
Our problem though is that when we reflect clearly and honestly on ourselves, we find the ugliness of selfish motives, guilt and self-reproach (instead of self-delight), fear and anxiety. Such reflections should cause us to feel a profound sense of weakness that results in self-distrust. Only then will we be in a state for our trust to shift to the Lord. Our affections and will then closely follow.