Yesterday I explored one of four big questions the TV series LOST has prompted us to ask over the past six years: “What about all the loose ends?” Today I’m going to explore question #2: Why am I here?

LOST began six years ago with Oceanic flight 815 crashing onto a mysterious island. The pilot episode (hey, that’s a pun) gave us no indication whatsoever that the crash was anything but random. Bad stuff happens, then you have to deal with the fallout. Right?

Well, yes—but over the years, we learn more about the island’s secrets—and the more we learn, the more we suspect that something very un-random is going on. Over time, we discover that every single person on that plane (or at least, the main cast) was supposed to be there. That the island—or Jacob, as it turned out, had arranged it all for some higher purpose. Specifically, each of the characters had experienced something painful prior to their trip. As it turns out, that pain becomes pivotal to the plot later on.

What’s both interesting (and heartbreaking) to watch is how each of the characters deal with this calling, this purpose. Most of them live oblivious to the larger story, or choose to view it through a pragmatist’s lens—Fine, I guess something bigger is going on, but how can I use that to help us get off this stupid island? Locke is the one character who “gets it” early on. He understands the larger story and chooses to live in it, even while the rest of the castaways have branded him a nutcase for believing what he does. Incredibly, Locke views the healing of his spine and paralysis as a gift from the island that he must use to serve that higher purpose. He uses his newly acquired feet to march to the beat of a different drum. In other words, he submits to the bigger story.

Another interesting twist to the “higher purpose” theme is that the story’s twists and turns hinge mostly on whom the group chooses to follow. Initially people follow Jack, the ultimate scientific pragmatist. Occasionally Locke garners a following, though never everyone. Sawyer even has his day in the sun, and of course we get to watch people following Daniel Faraday, Ben Linus, Jacob, the Man in Black, Alana, and Richard. What’s fascinating about this story is that who the people choose to follow determines whether they live or die, whether they fulfill their purpose or end up running from it. I also found it interesting that the real story (the higher purpose woven through the entire series) was so demanding to live in that many of the people who walked that path for many years experienced profound struggles and doubts along the way, even wishing they’d never agreed to travel that road at some points. In the end, though, we see that those people were on the right path. Even Jack, in the closing minutes of the whole series, admits, “Locke was right about almost everything.”

Isn’t that how life works for us? What seems random at first gradually begins to make sense. We awaken to a larger story being told by God himself and hear his invitation to live in it. We are supposed to be here, and our lives, even our pain, hint at a higher purpose. Our call is not to leverage that purpose for our own gain, but to submit to it for the sake of God’s larger Story. The Question is, who should we follow to fulfill this purpose? Whom we follow is a matter of life and death. “The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy,” Jesus claims, “But I have come that you may have life, life to the full” (John 10:10). Giving ourselves to God’s work under Jesus’ leadership is difficult, often painful in the maddening depth of sacrifice it demands. But in the end, why would we choose to live in any Story but the big one, the real one? I believe, in fact, that this is the central truth of the Bible.

NEXT: Can people really change?