When has there ever been such a world-wide concern and fascination with something lost as with Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370? I cannot remember a time or anything quite the same as this. Maybe the last time were those minutes following the news of JFK's assassination and the immediate manhunt that ensued for his assailant. This time, however, it is not just a national event; but a world event full of interest, intrigue, concern, compassion and new theories on the hour.
Concern abounds and rightly so. Now it seems we may be nearing a conclusion to this cliffhanger story. But, regardless of the outcome, one thing is undeniable. This story has captured the hearts and minds of the planet. There have been mysterious and tragic stories before, but this one is different. Just what is it that makes this story so unique and riveting to us?
The media coverage, ruminating, speculating, interviewing, debating, analyzing, and rehearsing has been incessant. Howard Kurtz, Fox News media commentator, said that "CNN has adopted an 'all-plane all-the-time coverage' of the story." Another commentator this week said that she believes the reason this story is so riveting is that currently it is a story without an end. Whereas the affected family members are hopeful for answers and desperate for closure; much of the world is searching for an ending to this alarming and compelling tale. Still others have conveyed that the fear of a mid-air mishap is among our worst.
So many adjectives have been used to describe Flight MH370, including mysterious, missing, possibly hijacked, possibly terrorized, but none more compelling than one: LOST. One of the first headlines I saw online about this story was: MISSING AIRPLANE. While hundreds utilize technology, aircraft, ship craft, radar and other investigation efforts to search for signs of the plane and those much-coveted pinging sounds of that infamous black box recorder, most of us have simply watched, hoped and prayed that the truth will soon emerge and, even if it requires hoping against hope, that somehow the passengers will be found and found safe.
Lost things are compelling and often the plot-driven focus of riveting tales and stories. Ten years ago a television series was all-the-buzz and caught the attention of the nation dominating the ratings for a six years. The show? LOST. Who of us could forget that opening episode and the frightening mid-air tragic event and the subsequent crash ending up with the survivors on an obscure island? The first time I saw it I was so glad I was not watching that first episode while on board a plane myself. But, it wasn't just the fact that the plane itself in the story was lost, but perhaps more so the various ways in which the people who populated the cast and that mysterious island were themselves rather lost, as well, personally, interpersonally, even spiritually.
In the Gospels Jesus told at least three stories about lostness; one about a lost thing; another, about a lost animal; and the last one about a lost person. The narratives are clearly presented and tightly preserved in one chapter -- Luke 15. With a one-two-three certainty, Christ was apparently determined to emphasize heaven's view of lostness. The first parable was that of the Lost Sheep, telling the story of a shepherd who had 100 sheep and when one got lost how he left the 99 to go in search of it. The second story was of a Lost Coin, the tale of a woman who lost a valuable coin and how she frantically swept the room to find it. The third and best-known story is of the Prodigal Son, a saga that some have called the "perfect story" replete with a loving father, a handsome inheritance, and overeager young prodigal and an envious brother. Of course, ultimately the lost sheep is recovered, the lost coin is found and the lost son returns to his home and his father. In each story, it is lostness that produces desperation and action. In each one, the coveted lost one is recovered. Each saga ends with joyous celebration. We have hoped to God that the story we have been watching of a lost plane would end in similar fashion.
Nonetheless, narratives about lostness, while finding some of their earliest expressions in the Bible, are not limited to the pages of Scripture. No, the theme of lostness has been portrayed countless times in the movies, as well. Who could forget Tom Hanks desperate attempts at survival amidst the elements in Castaway. And, this past year audiences were captivated with Sandra Bullock's haunting portrayal of a young astronaut "lost" in space and finding herself desperately and abruptly untethered in Gravity. Also, there was that recent film with Robert Redford about a man whose sailboat collides with a piece of dock and finds himself fatefully adrift at sea. The film's title: All is Lost.
I have seen all three films; Castaway a few times, Gravity and All is Lost once. One of the things that truly amazed me about the script of Castaway and All is Lost was that while these two desperately lost men did seemingly everything they could come up with to find their way back to civilization, there was one thing they never did; not once. They never prayed or even tried to pray. Is that not a bit ironic? Given the circumstances, I think most people would have at least attempted a prayer, even a professing atheist. Yet, after an extended period of floating helpless untethered in space and then adjacent to some sorely damaged spacecraft, Bullock's character finally did address the subject of prayer. Alone and losing hope she said:
"I know. We're all gonna' die. Everybody knows that. But, I'm gonna' die TODAY. Funny that to know, but the thing is that I'm still scared. I'm really scared. Nobody will mourn for me. Nobody will pray for my soul. Will you mourn for me? Will you say a prayer for me? Or, is it too late? I mean I'd say one myself, but I've never prayed in my life so ... Nobody ever taught me how. Nobody ever taught me how."
We pray for the souls that were aboard Flight MH370 and for the loved ones who have waited so eagerly and anxiously for their return. If were are honest, we are also, in part, riveted on the story of this flight because we too are familiar with feelings of lostness, of the desperation to find or recover someone we have lost, something we have misplaced or to go somewhere else we feel we should be. That feeling within our souls is something Jesus himself addressed in his life and ministry. In fact, he identified our lostness as his chief reason for coming to the planet. Here's what he said, "The Son of man [a title for Christ] came to seek and to save those who are lost (Luke 19:10 NLT)."
These past two weeks the whole world has been seeking those who are lost. According to the Bible, for two thousand years and more Christ has done the same.