Tuesday, December 13, 2022

What Are You Waiting For? Just Let It Go

Today I finished the yearly watch-thru of The Lord of the Rings.  I was struck by the scene at the end, when Frodo is standing at the edge, ring in hand.  He has come so far.  His journey was filled will trials, pain and tremendous grief.  He FINALLY made it up the mountain, and is positioned to finally throw the ring into the fires of Mordor.  It is what the entire series had been building to.  It was Frodo's purpose, and ultimately, the ring was his reason for leaving the shire.  He knew his mission, and though he stumbled along the way, he stayed focused (with the help of Samwise Gamgee) and he kept going, though the way became increasingly more difficult.  And now, he has made it to the end.  

It should be simple, right?  

Take the ring and throw it in.  

And yet, Frodo hesitates.

He knows that the ring is evil and brings ruin to all who carry it. He knows that he must destroy it-the fate of the world depends on it. But as evil does, it twists and tempts and can confuse and corrupt even the purest of hearts.  In some ways, Frodo, carrying the ring to Mordor, has become attached to the ring.  Though he knows the perils it brings, he feels a certain draw or kinship with the ring.  He has worn the ring, and he knows the ring. Every time Frodo put the ring on, it was to hide, or to feel safe.  The ring brought a certain sense of safety, and when it came time to give it up, he hesitated.

We are like that with our addictions and sins, aren't we?  We can look at it and know it is wrong, and yet we still feel a draw to it.  I saw an addict in Frodo's face in this scene and it broke my heart.

Sam, having seen what the ring had done to Frodo, how it has stripped him of everything that makes him human (much like addiction), weeps while asking, "What are you waiting for?  Just let it go."

Read that again.

"What are you waiting for? Just let it go."

Frodo stands there for a long moment, thinking.  And then he turns around, having made his choice, and he declares, "The ring is mine."  He puts the ring on and disappears, and Sam is left alone, utterly devastated.

Having traveled all the way to the end, ready to throw the ring into the fires of Mordor, Frodo decides it's too precious to him to actually give it up. He gives himself over to his desire for the ring above all else.

I find myself incredibly disappointed in Frodo.  How could he have come so far, just to run right back to the very thing that was destroying him?  It's easy to watch that and think, "You idiot!  You were right there at the edge of victory.  Why would you give it all up now?"

My heart sinks watching his face and hearing him choose the ring over freedom (for himself and those he loved).  It's the same way I have been disappointed every time my husband has used pornography to act out. The same way I am disappointed when I see one of my kids choose a path that will cause them pain.  The same way I am disappointed in myself when I go back to the same toxic ways of thinking that have always ruled my life.  It is a disappointment filled with heartbreak.  Because in each of those scenarios, I can SEE that there is a better way.  

Frodo found out as soon as he left the shire that life is incredibly difficult.  The same is true for us.  Life will put things in your path that you didn't expect, and that you certainly didn't ask for or want.  You will experience pain and sorrow and be hurt in ways you never imagined possible. You may make it almost to the very end, and find yourself hopeless and ready to give up.  

Don't let the pain and confusion and evil all around you destroy your spirit and what you know to be true.  Don't give up.  Do not lose heart.

Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. - 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Do you know what I love about this? Even though Frodo chose himself and chose selfishness in that moment where victory was certain, he was given another chance to make it right. He was provided one more opportunity to do the right thing. Gollum bites Frodo's finger off and Frodo is finally free of the burden of the ring. Once the ring is removed from him, Frodo comes to his senses and his desire to destroy the ring is once more stirred up. He risks his very life for one last confrontation with Gollum where they both go over the edge, and Gollum falls, and the ring is destroyed, once and for all.  So even though he made it to the end and chose poorly, he was given one more shot at victory.

This is one of my favorite things about God.  No matter how many times we stand at the precipice of freedom, ready to throw our chains into the fires, and then we turn away and go back to the safety of our sins or addictions or fears, God says, "Try again.  Get up and fight. You can still have victory." 

I mean, he gave up his son, who didn't have to come to this broken world, to show us that victory is within our reach. To give us chance after chance after chance.  I don't know about you, but that alone is a reason to hold firmly to hope. No one but God forgives with such unwavering grace and mercy and love. We will not always do it right the first time.  We will make mistakes and we will hurt people.  But we don't have to live under the weight of shame and condemnation. We are offered a second chance. And then another. And another.  And hopefully, one day you will stand at the edge of victory and instead of holding onto that "ring," you will throw it into the flames and be free of it once and for all.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Come and Claim Him

There are many reasons to love the Lord of the Rings (books or movies-I'm not picky).  I turn the movies on at least once a year, because they take me on an entire journey, mentally and emotionally.  I have always loved one part in particular, though I have never understood why until this week.

There is this scene in the book where the elf Glorfindel has to help Frodo and his friends across the Ford of Bruinen to get to Rivendell.  In the movies, they placed this task on Arwen, and we find her at the banks of the ford, a dying Frodo laid across her horse, as the Nine Riders pursue them relentlessly.  When all seems lost, with courage in her posture and ready to give her life for this mission, Arwen looks at them and says fiercely, "If you want him, come and claim him."

As the riders rush into the water to try to get to Frodo, Arwen calls on the power of the elves and the waters rise, rushing upon the Nine Riders, giving Arwen time to escape and deliver Frodo for healing to the land of Rivendell.

"If you want him, come and claim him."


Those are fighting words.

I connect with them because, as it turns out, I am a fighter.

I resisted claiming this title for myself for a long time, feeling like it meant I thought more highly of myself than I should.  But the truth of the matter is that I am fighter.  There is a resiliency in me that until this year, I didn't really understand that I possessed.  It isn't anything that I have, dependent on myself.  It is something that comes because I TRUST Jesus.  I believe what the Bible says about him.  I have faith that I will be rescued, even if it doesn't look the way I might want it to.

And I find this challenge of "come and claim him" to be incredibly encouraging.

I am under constant attack from the arrows of the enemy.  An enemy who seeks to steal, kill and destroy.  That enemy is running rampant in our world and entangled up in our lives.  We have a Savior, a commander who leads us and guides us through the enemy's territory.  

This world?

It's not as God intends it to be.  The garden of Eden is what He intended. But he didn't want us to be robots, forced to follow him simply because we have to.  He made us, special and set apart from all other creation, with a mind that is capable of knowing Him.  Our brains, able to think and choose and decide for ourselves set us apart from animals and other living things.  God wanted someone who would choose him because of who He is.

So, he gives us a mind unlike any other, and with it comes the power to hurt or heal (ourselves or others).  And throughout our lives, it delights God when we seek after him.  When we bring our joy and sorrow alike to him.  When we acknowledge that we are nothing, specks of dust in the grand scheme of things.  And yet, he loves us immensely, more than we can even put into words or fathom.  It makes NO sense.  I know it doesn't make sense.  That doesn't mean it isn't true.  

So, when I watch the Lord of the Rings (The Fellowship of the Ring) and I see and hear Arwen say, "If you want him, come and claim him." that feels like the gauntlet is being thrown down and I can't help but get excited and want to join her in that fight.

It is not lost on me that Jesus is Arwen for us here.  His blood covers us and when the enemy comes calling, and he will, Jesus steps in, his grace and mercy speaking for us, and he says to the devil, "If you want him, come and claim him."

And THEN, when the enemy pursues, God shows up.  His waters rush in and are too powerful for the enemy.  We are covered by his blood, by his grace, and nothing the enemy can do to us can extinguish that.  We are covered.  It gives me chills to think about this scene and how Jesus has stood at the fords of my deepest pain and shame and told the devil that if he wants me, he has to come and claim me from the grasp of God himself!  Which God has proven over and over again the devil is simply incapable of doing.  This keeps hope alive, even in the darker times.