This week’s episode of LOST (“What They Died For” – 5/18/10) featured an event that Lost aficionados have been anticipating for months: the revelation of which “candidate” would replace the mysterious Jacob as guardian and protector of the island. The way it was determined who would fill this role was fairly uneventful (and in my opinion a bit dull and uncreative). Jacob meets with the candidates around a campfire and tells them that he brought them to the island so that one of them would replace him. He then basically asks for a volunteer, and Jack Shepherd, the de facto leader since the beginning, raises his hand to accept the role. What I found significant about this scene was the conversation between Jacob and the others leading up to this decision.
Sawyer, always one to vent angry doubt, asks Jacob what right does he have to interfere with and disrupt their lives to bring them to the island. He claims, “I was doing just fine ’til you dragged my ass to this damn rock.” Jacob replies, “No you weren’t. I didn’t pluck any of you out of a happy existence; you were all flawed. I chose you because you were all alone; you were all looking for something that you couldn’t find out there. I chose you because you needed this place as much as it needed you.” Jacob chose them because they are flawed and needy, and gives them an opportunity for redemption. He chose them not based on their merits but in spite of them (or rather because of their need); in other words he chose them by grace Having been chosen to come to the island, they are given a choice to redeem themselves on the island.
This theme of a higher power electing unlikely, undeserving people for higher or even heroic purposes is prominent in Scripture. In the book of Deuteronomy chapter 7, we are given insight into why of all peoples on the earth, God specifically chose Israel to be His own:
“7The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the least of all peoples. 8 But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.”
God makes similar choices throughout Scripture. His chooses the youngest, physically weakest son out of the seven sons of Jesse to become Israel’s greatest king – David. He chooses a humble peasant girl to bear and mother His Son – Mary. And Mary herself hails from the obscure, “backwoods” town of Nazareth (“What good can come out of Nazareth?” He chooses Saul, a violent, self-righteous persecutor of Christians to become his greatest apostle – the most influential person, besides Jesus of course, in the history of Christianity. God has established a pattern of choosing the weak, lonely, and broken to accomplish His larger purposes, and in doing so provides a means for redemption.
This same theme is central in J.R.R. Tolkien’s tale “Lord of the Rings.” In this story, the central heroes are hobbits – a peaceful human-like race of creatures, but very short and stature, and not at all influential in the affairs of Middle Earth. When Frodo Baggins, the central hobbit hero, begins to regret that the Ring had come to him, the wise wizard Gandalf encourages him by appealing to a sense of calling or providential guidance:
“So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time given us…There are other force at work in this world besides the forces of darkness. Bilbo was meant to find the ring. And therefore you were meant to have it. That is an encouraging thought.”
When Jack Shepherd chooses to sacrifice himself to replace Jacob in the difficult and lonely task of defending the island, he draws strength from the belief that “This is what I’m supposed to do.” We, too, can drawn strength and courage for heroic deeds from believing that we exist for a purpose higher than ourselves and discovering what it is we are “supposed to do” – that is one’s calling.