Sunday, October 12, 2014

In the Right Place for the Wrong Reasons

A bit of a flashback for me, this is something I wrote ten years ago for an earlier blog, but I haven't yet shared it here.

In the Right Place for the Wrong Reasons

In an interview about The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, Miranda Otto (Eowyn) said that we live in "cynical times", but that this is not a cynical movie. It shows goodness, truth, fellowship, and trust prevailing over darkness and betrayal. Those that fight against the darkness are often ordinary people thrust into extraordinary situations; they are not the fastest or strongest or bravest, yet they accept the call when it comes.

I believe we can be the white light in that cynical world, refusing to believe that truth and goodness cannot triumph. To paraphrase the king at the final battle, there may come a time when we will fail, where we will toss aside our bonds of fellowship, but it is not today!   Yet we stumble and fall. We make mistakes.

Eowyn, the White Lady of Rohan, is expected to do her duty. She is expected to farewell the men, then to return home and lead her people. It is a leadership role, yes, but a home-bound role as well. Eowyn is expected to remain behind, while those she loves fight for her.

Eowyn cannot. She wants to fight. Even though she is afraid, come the battle, she still wants to fight for her friends.

How many times do we know what we must do, but something calls us elsewhere? How many times, for good or bad, do we feel like we're abandoning our duty. Perhaps it's to do something we feel is greater. Often, it's simply out of apathy or fear. We turn away from what we should do and go elsewhere.

God is not as shallow as we. He sees possibility even where we see only weakness.

Eowyn turns away from her assigned duty; she goes to battle against her father's wishes. She risks not only her life, but Merry's, and those of the people she would leave behind should both their leaders die in battle.

Yet, God uses even this seeming mistake. At the pinnacle of the battle waits the Witch King, the Lord of the Nazgul and a creature that "no living man can kill". And there they are placed, through deceit, through abnegation of her duties, through spills and mistakes: Eowyn and Merry, a woman and a hobbit. There they are, among thousands of living men, mere yards from the Witch King, are the two people capable of destroying him.

Even through our pride, our desires, and our apparent mistakes, God can bring good. Had Eowyn not ridden out to that battle, had she not brought Merry with her, had they both not been there at that moment, Evil would have triumphed.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

On Finding Rings

In the first movie based on The Hobbit, Bilbo asks Gandalf, "Can you promise that I will come back?" The wizard replies, "No, and if you do, you will not be the same." (You can see the exchange in the first trailer.)

There is something about finding rings that changes a person. Now, most people come back from these adventures in our world, but Gandalf's warning holds true--they are never the same.

For some, the ring they receive is a wedding ring, given by their spouse at the altar. It is an outward sign of the inward change. That new husband or wife has accepted their vocation (from the Latin for "being called").  They have not just changed their jewelry but their soul, their state in life. From then on, there will be challenges as well as joys, but their direction is set.

Nuns may wear a ring as a sign of their commitment as well, as a sign of their consecration and new state of life. Each of them has set off, as well, on a new adventure, taken the first step in a particular direction.

Bishops wear rings, the most well-known being the Ring of the Fisherman, worn by the Bishop of Rome (the Pope).  These episcopal rings are signs of their authority, and they are, too, signs of their vocation--of their being called to be priests and, then, to serve as successors to the apostles. Again, there are particular challenges as well as joys, but that direction is set.

Once you have the ring, the adventure begins. Each of us the bears one carries a joyful burden--a light yoke--that is our particular calling. And while callings may be the same--many are called to be married, or consecrated religious, or priests, or bishops--the individual adventure is different. When we put on our ring for the first time, none of us may know what lays ahead on the road, or even which road we will be taking. What we know is who with, and who for. 
The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet
- The Return of the King, Book VI, Chapter 6