Tuesday, January 22, 2002

The Way Home

The first installment of LOTR the movie was undoubtedly a feast for Tolkien lovers and I hope an appetizer to would-be readers. Peter Jackson has amazed us by dramatizing and giving form to a world true to what many of us have imagined. Staying faithful to the spirit of the book, he has yet succeeded in giving it it new life. I was simply overjoyed that a mere 3 hour adaptation captured so well a story that took Tolkien over 20 years to write. (It also took Jackson only twelve years to make it!)

Of the many themes that LOTR overflows with, I walked away with a renewed sense of seeing life as a journey. A long and windy road that begins with a defining point, that is rediscovered at every step, and is shared by the people who go with us. Let me reminisce on some of these truths captured in the story.

A defining point

'I know we are going to take a very long road, into darkness; but I know I can't turn back.. I don't rightly know what I want : but I have something to do before the end, and it lies ahead,' said Sam Gamgee soon after his first skin-crawling encounter with the Ringwraiths.

We may be able to trace our journeys to such defining moments. When the destiny ahead seems to grip us and draw us from afar. When we didn't quite know where or what, but that we just had to go. Like when Abraham left homeland Ur, not knowing where the road would take him. Like the Magi traveling in the faint light of an obscure star, not knowing what awaited them . Like when the first disciples trailing Jesus were stopped with the question: 'What do you want?'
There may be many 'first steps' or 'turning points' in our lives. When in spite of the dangers without and fears within, we found the invisible courage to step forward. And I thank God for these moments, for they ignited the faith I need for the journey. Remembering these defining moments, I find courage to put one foot ahead of the other. Again and again.

A destiny

'We cannot choose what time we live in, but we must choose what to do with the time given to us..' Gandalf whispers these courageous words to Frodo in the darkness of Moria. In a moment of despair as deep as the mines and as evil as the death surrounding him, he had every right to question. What's the point of it all? Why risk so much and endanger so many? Why not forget everything and go home?
The turn of the century is a time of despair. Covert enemies terrorize civilization. Economies collapse in Argentina and Japan. The earth splits and fires spill over in Africa. Our own nation struggles with threats at many levels. Things may not be peachy at work and there may be little peace at home or in our churches. Our own inner lives could be in turmoil. Times like these, I will fling my hands in the air and ask 'Why?' 'Why should I bother anymore?'

We can't change the times we live in or what befalls us. Nor can we escape to another time. But we can choose to be true to our hearts. True to all that God has placed on our hearts and all that He's made us to be. We can choose to defend good where we are. And somehow we will stumble upon our destiny. When amid overwhelming darkness we dig into who we are and look to God for light on how to live. We are the Beloved children of God. We are salt and light of the earth. We walk the narrow road of eternal life. At every step, destiny is found deep within our hearts. The choice is not between saving the world and hiding. Ultimately it is a choice to be true to God and myself, or deny who I am.

Friends for the journey

'Faithless is he who says farewell when the road darkens.. Sworn word may strengthen quaking heart,' said Gimli as the pact formed between the nine at Rivendell. 'If by life or death I can save you, I will,' was Aragorn's promise to Frodo. A promise he kept all the way. Great is the power of friends whom we can count on . They make us or break us. I truly don't know where I'd be if not for the friends who cared. Friends who will still love me when I'm at my lowest and most wayward. Friends who will not let me stray far or leave me fallen by the way. Friends who will go with me as companions in the joys and pains of every day. It is the warmth of these friendships that make the cold journey bearable. It is companionship that makes every turn a joyful discovery to be shared. May I be such a friend also to other pilgrims on this journey.

From Tolkien's Middle-Earth to the story of Scripture, life is a change-filled journey to be embraced. The disciples' answer to Jesus' provoking question was simply this, 'Where do you live?' They wanted to go home. In Abraham's quest for the land of milk and honey, God promised him, 'I am your shield. I am your very great reward.' To the Magi, their lives changed forever at the feet of the infant born to die for them. Frodo had to go to Mordor to make it home to the Shire. We are all wandering home to the Father, and who knows how far we must go, or how long we shall wander to find Him who is already iniside us. But not all who wander are lost. What a mystery, this journey we call life...

'As for me, my way home lies onward and not back.' - Boromir


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