Monday, August 9, 2010

Tolkien and the Gospel, or "Adventure"

I think we all reach points in our stories when it seems like we've reached the end. Nothing seems to be turning out the way it should, and we don't see much reason to go on. The problem is, the book isn't over. Somehow, we have to keep living, going from page to page.

It's hard. So hard that you being to understand that you can't do it much longer. Only you don't seem to have much choice.

If only you knew how it all would end, you could live this page. But that's the problem: you don't know. And every page of every day, the words your feet scratch seem to be the same as the page before. You guess the next page will be the same.

I've been there, and I began to understand something: my story isn't my own. I'm a character in a meta narrative, an epic that was begun before the ages. Rather than focusing on whether or not my end will be the one of my choice, I only have to see what my part is on this page. In that realization, I found something: adventure.

J.R.R. Tolkien, master of human story-telling, says it well. It's the scene where Frodo and Sam are nearing Mount Doom in the evil wasteland of Mordor, near the end of their weary quest to destroy the One Ring. But you know this, right? If you don't, I beg you to end your deprivation and read the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I don’t like anything here at all,’ said Frodo, ‘step or stone, breath or bone. Earth, air and water all seem accursed. But so our path is laid.’

‘Yes, that’s so,’ said Sam. ‘And we shouldn’t be here at all, if we’d known more about it before we started. But I suppose it’s often that way. The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have just landed in them usually – their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on – and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same – like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we’ve fallen into?’

‘I wonder,’ said Frodo. ‘But I don’t know. And that’s the way of a real tale. Take any one that you’re fond of. You may know, or guess, what kind of a tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending, but the people in it don’t know. And you don’t want them to.’
It's true. Life isn't for wimps. That doesn't mean we have to just buck up and deal with things, pretending we don't care or it doesn't hurt. Neither should we have to pretend that because God knows what's going on, this must be His Divine Doing and we shouldn't question. Being characters who only see today, it's not only fine, but necessary, to be honest. To cry as well as laugh, to question as well as believe. Meanwhile, we keep writing. With hope and an abiding sense of excitement. Because we know the Author. And we know that He is weaving together, with threads of Redemption and Mercy, the imperfect parts we all play... and that, somehow, when the Author ends the chapter titled "Time", it will all come out right.

The most admired of lives were lived by those who kept going, not avoiding hardship, because they knew. They were part of something bigger. A grand adventure.

1 comment:

Rosanne said...

i resonate. thanks for the encouragement