Sunday, March 25, 2012

Just Keep Swimming…

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

The dwarves managed to escape from their goblin captors, but their freedom turns out to be short-lived. Bilbo is getting a piggy-back ride from one of the dwarves so that his short legs don't slow them down, and when the goblins catch up with them again and his ride is captured, he falls off and rolls to the side of the passageway, unnoticed. When he awakes, he finds himself in pitch-darkness and unsure of the way he should go. After some moments of panic, he manages to take stock of his situation and finds, to his comfort, that he is still intact and that he still has his sword that glows when goblins are near. This calms him and allows him to better assess his situation:

"'Go back?' he thought. 'No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!' So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter."

Sometimes, it's hard to see where we are going. It feels like we're lost in the dark and may never reach our destination. The only thing to do in this situation is to persevere, to keep going forward, knowing that we are not alone and that sitting still is the quickest way not to get anywhere at all. We must pick ourselves up, reach for the One that will guide us, and head out. If we have a magic sword to lead with, or even a silly little ditty from a Disney cartoon to cheer us, so much the better!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Seek and Ye Shall Find

Ask, and it will be given you; search and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)

A storm is raging in the mountains and the Dwarves' party is caught out in it, their mere overhang providing little shelter from the rock-shattering thunder. Thorin sends Fili and Kili, the youngest dwarves (and therefore the ones with the sharpest eyesight) to find better shelter for the group of travelers. The two scouts return, far sooner than expected, having found a cave nearby that would serve their purposes quite nicely. When questioned about how well they examined the cave to make sure it did not hold any nasty surprises, they assure everyone that they looked carefully and it looked quite protected and safe.

However, Thorin's response is, "There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something….You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after." 

That is certainly true. In this case, Fili and Kili are looking for a dry, sheltered place to spend the night, and when they come upon the cave, the dryness and shelter are all they see. They do not take the time to examine it closely – if they had, they might have found the ominous crack in the back that would prove to be a problem for everyone. Similarly, there are many people that go looking in the Bible for the verse that will support their opinion on a certain issue, and quite often they find what they think are just the right words. Just as often, they do not take the time to examine the context to find out what the verse really means, which usually is something completely different than the seeker thinks.

On the other hand, sometimes when we look, we find not quite what we were after, but that different something proves to be far better than what we thought we wanted. God promises that when we seek, we will find. Let us trust him and be open-minded enough to recognize that we have found something, even if it wasn't what we were looking for.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Plan B

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

The first major stop in the Dwarves' journey is at Rivendell, the "Last Homely House" before entering the wilderness. Elrond the Half-Elven is master of the house, and he proves instrumental in helping the Dwarves, both in pointing out crucial information on their map and in planning the best route to the Lonely Mountain. However, as Tolkien notes,

"Even the good plans of wise wizards like Gandalf and of good friends like Elrond go astray sometimes when you are off on dangerous adventures over the Edge of the Wild; and Gandalf was a wise enough wizard to know it.
"He knew that something unexpected might happen, and he hardly dared to hope that they would pass without fearful adventure over those great tall mountains with lonely peaks and valleys where no king ruled. They did not. All was well, until one day they met a thunderstorm – more than a thunderstorm, a thunder-battle."

This enormous thunderstorm caused them to seek shelter in a mountain cave, which, as it turns out, had not been as thoroughly checked out as the dwarves who found it had claimed. While they are sleeping, a crack opens up in the back wall and a band of goblins kidnaps them and takes them into their tunnels far below the mountains. Everything turns out alright in the end, though not before some harrowing escapes from the Goblins' clutches. The dwarves come out of the goblin caves on the other side of the mountains, and it is while lost in the caves that Bilbo finds the magic ring that is vital to his later success as a burglar.

It is not unusual for things not to go according to plan, as we all know. In life it helps sometimes to have a plan B to fall back on and to be flexible in case we have to do something else. It is comforting to realize, however, that whatever happens, God will use those circumstances to bring about a greater good than we are able to imagine at the time as things fall apart around our ears. We may not be able to see that far ahead, but we can have faith that eventually that light really will be the end of the tunnel and not an oncoming train!