Posts Tagged ‘adventure’

I’ve been reading through one of Elisabeth Elliot’s books, Finding Your Way Through Loneliness, and impressed by the general thrust and themes in it — particularly the points of obedience, and offering oneself and all that one has (and is, and does, and doesn’t have) as a complete sacrifice to God.

One of her illustrations is that of mythic adventures and the promised great reward:

The heroes of the world’s great legends let themselves in for all kinds of fearsome troubles because of the promise of a great reward—the favor of the king, a pot of gold, marriage to a princess. Because there was a shining goal, they entered in with heart and will to participate in the as-yet unseen and unknown hazards of the dreadful journey. Their heroism lay in acceptance—a wholehearted acceptance of conditions other men would avoid at all cost—and in endurance. The dark caves, tunnels, and labyrinths were not problems to be solved but hazards to be traversed, the storms and heavy seas were to be braved, the giants and monsters to be slain. All were accepted and endured in view of the prize.

Though Elliot never mentions J.R.R. Tolkien specifically (she does occasionally reference writings from C.S. Lewis), this quote and similar thoughts remind me of this heroism as seen in both The Hobbit and in Lord of the Rings.  Certainly The Hobbit fits into her category, of characters that are willing to take on great difficulties because of the promise of a great reward.  Indeed, in the sequel, Frodo himself makes this point to Gandalf:  Bilbo had gone off on a treasure hunt, to gain something and then return:  For where am I to go?  And by what shall I steer?  What is to be my quest?  Bilbo went to find a treasure, there and back again; but I go to lose one, and not return, as far as I can see.

Still the adventure experience itself is something that imparts life lessons.  This article at An Unexpected Journal makes some great points regarding life as an adventure, drawing from the stories of Saint Brendan–and from Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit:

Life is meant to be an adventure. When we cease to reach out and stretch ourselves something in us dies or we feel frustrated; for life to be lived to the full it has to be adventurous. I believe that God calls us to adventure, to extend ourselves, and to seek new horizons . . . In all our lives there are mystery and depths that are unfathomable; if we lose our sight of this life becomes more of a problem or we become dull and bored. … There is a great risk of loss in both adventure and faith, but the benefits are both immediate as well as eternal. In the end, knowledge of oneself and one’s God is gained through adventure, and one begins to see the familiar in new ways. …

Yet in many ways, Frodo’s experience, and that of the other Hobbits, picture for us in story form what Elisabeth Elliot describes, regarding suffering (including loneliness) and our obedience in our tasks, whatever those may be.  In my current reading through The Two Towers, book 4 (the second part, about Frodo, Sam and Gollum on their way to Mordor), a scene from chapter 3 “The Black Gate is Closed” particularly makes the strong point of obedience to the will of God — in the story’s context, Frodo’s commission, that he had accepted in the council meeting at Rivendell — and one’s commitment to complete that work, whatever the consequences.

“I purpose to enter Mordor, and I know no other way.  Therefore I shall go this way.  I do not ask anyone to go with me.” … “I am commanded to go to the land of Mordor, and therefore I shall go,” said Frodo.  “If there is only one way, then I must take it.  What comes after must come.”

Then, in chapter 5 of Book 4, Frodo’s continued resolve, even in the face of fear and sorrow (in the meeting with Faramir):

Almost he yielded to the desire for help and counsel, to tell this grave young man, whose words seemed so wise and fair, all that was in his mind.  But something held him back.  His heart was heavy with fear and sorrow: if he and Sam were indeed, as seemed likely, all that was now left of the Nine Walkers, then he was in sole command of the secret of their errand.  Better mistrust undeserved than rash words.

What a great example, from our great literature, of single-minded purposeful obedience.  Frodo’s was an obedience that included much suffering, with continued uncertainty as to the outcome.  Until the end came, neither he nor Sam knew if they would accomplish their task, of destroying the enemy’s ring and thus putting an end to Sauron and all his works.  (And we who continually re-visit the world of Middle Earth know the ending well – Frodo failed in one sense, but “the pity of Bilbo” won the day.)  How much more revelation we have – we know the end of the story, of the “true myth” of the Gospel, as we look forward to the “Return of the King” Christ’s Second Coming.

Yet in the details of our own particular stories, of each of our own lives, like Frodo we do not know the outcome of specific events and trials.  We walk by faith, and not by sight, as we encounter the blessings as well as the trials, the circumstances and providences that God puts in the path for us.  This life is a spiritual warfare.  Oh, let us always keep our eyes on our God and walk the path of obedience–in loneliness (reference Elisabeth Elliot above) and all other suffering–with such steadfastness as displayed in Frodo.

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