Sunday, May 6, 2012

No Water, No Food After Midnight, and STAY ON THE PATH

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

When I started blogging my way through The Hobbit a few months ago, I had no idea that I would be referencing it in the same post with the movie Gremlins. It turns out, however, that the two stories have something in common, in that major events are instigated when characters fail to follow instructions. 

As any child of the 80's can tell you, the three rules of owning a Mogwai are to keep it out of the light, never get it wet, and never feed it after midnight. By a series of unfortunate accidents, two of the rules are broken and one cute little furry critter becomes a pack of evil, destructive monsters that ruin Christmas for the town of Kingston Falls. 

As for The Hobbit, many days and a series of unfortunate events have befallen Bilbo and the dwarves since they left the refuge of Beorn's house, and when their food and water supplies run out, so does their memory of the shape-shifter's most important piece of advice: Stay On The Path. It is so important that Gandalf reminds them of it several more times before he leaves them to take care of other business – in fact, "DON'T LEAVE THE PATH" is the last thing they hear him say as he gallops away. 

They have little trouble following directions at first, but after days and days of walking down the oppressively dark and gloomy path, their food and patience run out. It is no wonder, therefore, that they are sorely tempted when the lights and sounds of elven feasting appear in the trees just off of the trail. Although they have been warned that to leave the road may result in being lost forever in the forest, their focus on their empty stomachs leads to an inability to resist the temptation of food so close by. 

Of course, when they try to crash the elves' party, the lights go out and some of them even fall into an enchanted sleep. When the lights appear two more times later in the night, they try again with similar results, but their desire for food has completely overcome common sense at this point and they take no notice of cause and effect. In the end, they not only fail to get dinner, but they find themselves hanging from the trees wrapped in spider silk, about to become dinner. 

Often, the instructions we are given are just as simple and straightforward: Have no other gods before me; Honor your father and mother; Do not murder; Do not covet your neighbor's possessions; Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, mind, and strength; Love your neighbor as yourself; Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Why, then, is it so hard to follow them sometimes? I think that ultimately, much depends on how focused we are on our goals – the better the focus, the less likely we are to let temptations and other distractions lead us off the path. And how to do we improve our focus and learn to resist temptations? By doing just what pastors and Sunday School teachers have been telling us for years: spend time in prayer, Bible study, and worship, getting to know the One who helps us and sustains us through all the places our paths go.

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