I’m nearing the end of The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King. I have no idea how many times I’ve worked my way to this point. My mom (Thanks Mom!) gave me the series when I was 12. I’ve read them just about every year since. Paperbacks, hardbacks, digital copies…I’ve put in some long and great hours with my friends from Middle Earth. I suspect I’ll be somewhere in the story until I pass on. I love this story.
Tonight Frodo and Sam are nearing the end of their journey, miles away from the slopes of Mount Doom. They’re weary, beaten down, having just narrowly escaped the clutches of yet another band of orcs. Nearly out of food and water, they are just about at the end of themselves. Frodo is dozing fitfully; Sam looks at the road/path ahead, just as the darkness begins to lift:
But even as hope died in Sam, or seemed to die, it was turned to a new strength. Sam’s plain hobbit-face grew stern, almost grim, as the will hardened in him, and he felt through all his limbs a thrill, as if he was turning into some creature of stone and steel that neither despair nor weariness nor endless barren miles could subdue.
With a new sense of responsibility he brought his eyes back to the ground near at hand, studying the next move. As the light grew a little he saw to his surprise that what from a distance had seemed wide and featureless flats were in fact all broken and tumbled…
Is it possible that there is something stronger than hope? For the follower of Jesus, hope is more than a wish or a desire for something good. John Piper defines hope this way: biblical hope is a confident expectation and desire for something good in the future. There is moral certainty in it. That’s been my view for as long as I’ve understood what hope is, and that hope/moral certainty has kept me going for many days.
I don’t know that Tolkien would say that Samwise Gamgee discovered a deeper reservoir, a source greater than hope. I suspect that he merely turned the gem to glimpse another facet. I suppose we could call it LOVE, or PURPOSE, or perhaps CALLING.
If you live long enough, you will find yourself in desperate places, empty, wanting, grasping and gasping and barely holding on. That’s a bleak premise, I know. But that’s the truth. If you haven’t discovered that place yet, you’d better get a helmet, ’cause that day is coming.
So you’d better be intimately familiar with your purpose, your calling, your passion. Because when you are left with nothing more than your sense of calling, that reminder of what the Lord God has placed you on the planet is going to have to sustain you. And when you turn the gem and find that new strength, you’ll lift your chin, raising your eyes to scan the way ahead for your next move. You’ll rouse yourself, pick up your burden, and take the next step. And the next step. And the next.
Faith. Hope. Love. Purpose. Calling. Destiny.
Never doubt in the dark what God has spoken to you in the light. Grab a helmet…and maybe a cup.