Monday, September 24, 2012

Finding God in The Lord of the Rings

Many of my closest friends know that I am a big fan of J.R.R. Tolkien. I am very excited about the new Hobbit movie trilogy coming out by Peter Jackson. The first movie will be here December!

A few years ago, my wife bought me a book called Finding God in The Lord of the Rings by Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware. I thought I would share an excerpt with you...

"What's the matter, Mr. Frodo?" said Sam.
"I am wounded," he answered, "wounded; it will never really heal."

It had been two years that day since Frodo received the terrible wound in the dell under Weathertop.

A new year came, and Mr. Frodo continued to conceal his pain with great effort. Until one day, entering Sam's study with a look of finality, he invited his dear companion to accompany him on another journey. Uncle Bilbo Baggins had reached his 131st birthday, surpassing the Old Took, and the two would travel to Rivendell for a visit. "I wish I could go all the way with you," came Sam's reply. But they knew he could only go part of the way. A new father, Sam knew that long adventures were a completed chapter in his story.

While preparing to go, Sam was presented with the book begun many years earlier. The book, in which Bilbo and Frodo tell tales of the parts the hobbits had played in the downfall of the Lord of the Rings, was now nearly complete. "I have quite finished, Sam," said Frodo. "The last pages are for you." It was now clear to Sam what was happening. Mr. Frodo was finalizing details as he prepared to leave Middle-earth along with other Ring-bearers. He had received a mortal wound during his quest, and the sad reality of his departure was at hand. Approaching the place of their separation, a tearful Sam spoke.

"But I thought you were going to enjoy the Shire, too, for years and years, after all you have done."

"So I thought too, once. But I have been too deeply hurt, Sam. I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them."

Great sacrifice was necessary to defeat evil. Frodo had been chosen to carry a load none other could bear and fulfill a task none other could endure. Though Frodo was only one of many who had given up something for the greater good, none had suffered such direct confrontation with darkness or remained as faithful when tormented by the terrifying, possessing power of wickedness. Such was his role, to lose so that others might gain. And so, by completing his scene in the story, Frodo Baggins also performed the most heroic part.

Redemption. What a beautiful word! The lost regained. The ruined restored. The sick healed. The broken repaired. The enslaved set free. Wrong made right again. The deep yearning for God finally satisfied by the restoration of goodness!

But redemption can only occur after evil is defeated. Freeing captives requires entering enemy territory. Giving life may mean facing death. The paradise of peace is often secured through the hell of war. In every instance, someone must be willing to give up his or her self for the sake of others. Someone must be a hero.

The essence of every heroic act is self-sacrifice... From soldiers storming the beaches of Normandy to free Europe from tyranny to a frightened hobbit willing to destroy the Ring of Doom, every heroic act is a reflection of the ultimate hero in history, Jesus Christ. He left the respect and comfort of his rightful place for one reason: to redeem you and me from evil. He faced death to give life, endured sorrow to restore joy, confronted hate to show love. He humbled himself to the point of death on a cross to pay for our redemption. He was chosen for a burden none other could bear and a task none other could endure. In his words,

"God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." (John 3:16-17)

And in the words of one he redeemed,

"God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

And in the words of the jubilant song our story reveals,

"You were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth. . . . Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" (Revelation 5:9-12)

Someday, the rightful King will once again sit on the throne. All will be as it should be. In a strange twist of providence, our joy will be greater for having endured sorrow, turning even the intentions of evil into a greater good. And when that day arrives, the song of all ages will culminate in a chorus of redemption, a redemption made possible because the story includes a hero willing to sacrifice himself. Someone who was, in the words of Frodo, "willing to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them."

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