Sunday, July 8, 2012

Still, Small Voices

He said, "Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by." Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" (1 Kings 19:11-13)

While the dwarves have been exploring Smaug's treasure hoard, things have been much different and much worse for the people of Lake-town. Not able to catch the dwarves hiding in the tunnel, the dragon turns his wrath on the men living on the lake because he knows they had to have a part in helping the invaders of his lair. The buildings are on fire and people are running for their lives, frantic to escape the fiery beast that is bringing terror and destruction upon them. In the midst of the chaos, one man continues to shoot arrows at Smaug, seemingly in vain, even after all the other defenders have given up and fled for their lives. His name is Bard, and just before he lets loose his last arrow, a small bird lands on his shoulder and tells him everything that he has overheard the dwarves and Bilbo discussing, including where to find the one tiny place on Smaug's chest where he is missing a scale. On the dragon's next pass over the town, Bard waits, spots the vulnerable place, aims carefully, and shoots, successfully vanquishing the dragon once and for all.

Bard didn't learn of Smaug's weak spot from a scholarly book on the subject of dragon-killing, and there was no military commander barking out the order to shoot his arrows. Help came from the wise words of an unlikely messenger – a little bird perched on his shoulder. Furthermore, he didn't shoo away the creature or dismiss its words because of its seeming insignificance but took its words to heart and was successful as a result. May we, too, remember to listen for the still, small voice, and pay attention to the unlikely messengers that God sends our way to help us defeat our monsters or just find our way along the journey.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Darkness and Light

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)

Thanks to several carefully-placed blows of Smaug's tail, the dwarves can no longer use the secret door to exit the Lonely Mountain. To pass the time, they decide to accompany Bilbo on his next trip down the tunnel to the dragon's lair. Smaug is still not at home, so they decide to explore a bit, but not without sending the burglar out first, of course. Bilbo takes a torch with him, and the dwarves watch as the light becomes smaller and smaller, marking the hobbit's progress farther and farther into the vast hall. 

Suddenly a bat flies close to Bilbo's head, causing him to drop the torch. Alone in the darkness, Bilbo calls for help:

"'Thorin! Balin! Oin! Gloin! Fili! Kili!' he cried as loud as he could – it seemed a thin little noise in the wide blackness. 'The light's gone out! Someone come and find me and help me!' For the moment his courage had failed altogether."

Help arrives fairly quickly, of course. Once he sees the light of the dwarves' torches across the room, Bilbo's courage returns and he starts towards them, meeting them before they have come very far along the wall.

There are many situations that can cause us to feel that we are all alone, just a tiny speck in the vast darkness. Thank goodness for the light that takes away our fears and comforts us in the blackest of situations, and thank goodness for the friends who sometimes serve as the bringers of that light, reminding us that we are not alone after all.