I have been getting so many hits the last two weeks from the search terms “Desmond,” “Penny,” and “Lost, that I have decided to re-post this entry so that it is easy to find on the blog.
This week’s episode reintroduces one of Lost’s most beloved characters – Desmond Hume. Desmond plays a special, mysterious role on the island, a role that is too complex to explain here if you have not been watching the show. He is presented in this episode as having the unique ability to stop the Man in Black in his quest to escape the island, and in the U.S. “flash sideways” parallel storyline he sets out at the end on a quest to show the other characters something extraordinary he has found.
What he has found (or re-discovered) is love. Love is portrayed in the show as a kind of mystical experience that brings life meaning. Desmond’s life is one that is “free from attachments.” He has an exciting job for which he is richly compensated, and, without a family, is free to indulge himself. His boss assigns him to supervise Charlie, the drug-addicted rock star, to ensure that he shows up to play in an important concert. Along the way, Charlie challenges his claim to have found happiness and asks him if he has ever been in love. Charlie tells about his own mystical experience of love, which he describes as “real” and “the truth.” He claims that “none of this [his musical career, his health, etc.] matters; all that matters is that we felt it.” “It” refers to the experience of deep, “spectacular, consciousness-altering” love. Charlie aims to demonstrate this claim to him, and when Desmond experiences “it” for himself, he is transformed by it.
This episode raises questions about what is the meaning of life and the choices we must make to find it. The idea that meaning is not found in what we accomplish or in the wealth and possessions we accumulate, but in love relationships is supported by Scripture. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is asked by an expert in religious law what he must do to merit eternal life. Jesus asks him what the law says, and the man replies “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus validates his answer (elsewhere Jesus teaches these are the greatest commandments) and adds, “Do this and you will live,” and then proceeds to tell the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan.
Jesus teaches us in this dialogue that love is what matters most in life. The Bible reveals that love is God’s very nature (“God is love”). Loving God in response to His love for us, and expressing this love in loving our neighbors, is what life is about. When Jesus says “you will live,” he is speaking of the rich, meaningful life we all crave: a life of purpose, joy, peace, and hope; a life that does not end with death but continues blissfully for eternity. God’s love, though, is more than a fleeting, mystical experience we search for to validate our existence. His love is rich, free, unwavering, and transformative. Just this evening I was singing a beautiful hymn that captures the wonder of this love:
The love of Christ is rich and free, fixed on His own eternally;
Nor earth, nor hell, can it remove;
Long as He lives, His own He’ll love.
His loving heart engaged to be their everlasting Surety;
‘Twas love that took their cause in hand,
And loves maintains it to the end.
Love shall not from its post withdraw;
Nor death, nor hell, nor sin nor law,
Can turn the Surety’s heart away;
He’ll love His own to endless day.
God’s love alone is big and pure enough to fill the void in our hearts for meaning. Our problem, though, is that we set our affections on things other than God, which alienates us from him. These other, lesser loves always disappoint because they are small and do not last.
Obviously, what we love affects the choices we make. What is not clear is how we decide what or who we love, or whether that choice is truly “free.” At some level, I believe, we do have a choice about who we love ultimately. As Desmond tells Charlie, “There is always a choice.” Fortunately, though, God is not passively waiting for us to seek His love. His love, demonstrated supremely in Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross to bear the penalty for our sin, pursues us actively, wooing us away from other loves and abiding with us eternally, guaranteed by Christ’s work on the behalf of God’s children. The good news is that if we do choose to love God with all our heart it is only because He first loved us.