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Aug 2020

The Old Man Who Lived in a Foot

Oh, so now after all this time, you’ve decided to stop ignoring me. I did what I was told. But when I dared to ask to see you myself I was told I had to wait…What was it that was so wrong with me? What about me? – Benjamin Linus to Jacob on the season 5 finale of Lost

What about you? – Jacob’s response to Ben

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. – Psalm 22:1–2

It is therefore necessary that we should be subject, from first to last, to the scourges of God, in order that we may from the heart call on him; for our hearts are enfeebled by prosperity, so that we cannot make the effort to pray. – John Calvin, Commentary on Zechariah, Malachi

In my original treatment of Lost, I stated that much of the fanaticism surrounding the show appears to show some deep, inner-need-driven attempt at getting close to God and life with God; this is exactly where we landed two nights ago as we finished season (the best season by far). In short, it is an incredible finale. It has the right amount of tension, and incorporated some of the big themes that have made this series phenomenal: romance, action, death, life, redemption, and forgiveness to name a few; but what originally fascinated me about this episode is the character of Jacob. The interest was not only because we get our first glimpse of him here, but also because of the tension going on between him, Locke, and Ben. It was the final confrontation scene that developed the most intrigue in me.

In the scene, Ben Linus confronts Jacob for having never responded to him. Ben is furious. He has served faithfully for all these years, done everything asked of him, and never once disobeyed a direct order; and for all his service, his daughter is killed, he gets diagnosed with cancer, and is finally banished from the island. After all his years of service and faithfulness, upon asking to see Jacob, he was consistently told “no, be patient.” Enter John Locke, the new leader of the Others, who asks once, and is immediately escorted to Jacob, “like he was Moses” (Ben’s own words). So all this leads Ben to ask his master, “Why did you ignore me? What about me?”

This is a pretty provocative question that continues to haunt me even today. Ben has the chance to ask the invisible controller of his destiny, the ruler of the island, the one from whom he received all his commands, “Why have you been so far from me?” It’s a question that rings in my ears like a critique of God. It’s a question that the Psalmist asked: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.” It is the complaint of Jeremiah when he continually cries up, “How long, O Lord?” And it was, most famously, the question of Job. As Job had been a “righteous man,” so Ben had lived up to his responsibilities and honored Jacob’s requests. Why, then, were they not answered?

It’s an age old question, and one every person who has gone through a difficult time has at some point thought to themselves. And it is a theme this show has leaned on a few times now: the tension between faith and sight, and the relationship of individuals to their sufferings. Season five’s finale seems to be asking the question that is at the heart of the whole matter: What’s the relationship between the mysterious/divine, and my suffering?

Unfortunately, or fortunately, the finale ends without an answer, and Ben kills his god; and as Jacob lies stabbed through the heart, and going up in flames, I was sad that this is what many of us choose to do as well. Whenever we suffer or go through hard times, our solution is to “kill God.” Look at what Zechariah 13 says:

Zechariah 13:8–9
In the whole land, declares the LORD, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive. And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them.

The thing to notice in these verses is the change that God is looking for is his people in the midst of suffering and difficulties. “I will test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them.” That’s all he mentions. He simply says: “When they come through the fire, they will pray to me, and I will answer.” Our prayer should be that through the “fire” of suffering, we may learn to truly call on God from our hearts for his love and providential care. Only then can we respond like David did in verse 3 of Psalm 22 listed above, “Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.”

But even more provacative then Ben’s question, is Jacob’s response, “What about you?” He doesn’t confirm or deny anything Ben said. He doesn’t say that Ben’s work has been meaningful, or that it’s been meaningless. He simply responds with a question: What about you?

At first listen, this comes across as so dismissive, unappealing…other…holy? This epitomizes how we feel about God. Does God play favorites? We see others receive answers to prayer, get healed, get “assignments.” “What about me?”

Ben wants validation, for his god to give him the comfort that what HE had chosen to do was right, that the story HE had chosen to craft for himself was correct. He doesn’t get it. No one gets it on Lost. No one gets it in life. But as I sat mesmerized at this scene again the other night, I couldn’t help but take in the whole context of the room, especially what Jacob had been doing prior to Ben and Locke showing up: he was weaving a tapestry. So when I hear Jacob say that to Ben, I hear compassion. I hear, “Ben, you are part of a much bigger story, or tapestry, I am weaving. All you need to do is trust me, because I will always get you to that better place…although you may not like the journey all the time.” It really is a powerful scene. Of course, we haven’t seen the last of Jacob. Resurrection and vanquishing of evil/sin anyone?

Shelby out!


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