Lessons from The Lord of the Rings

Lord of the Rings 03-25-15

The Lord of the Rings is a classic. So many life lessons can be learned from examining just one of the many characters in these novels.

The greatest lesson I have learned is that through Jesus, I’m capable of more than I thought. Just like Frodo, God calls us to take many journeys. Journeys full of danger, pain, sorrow, and maybe even death. Most often we don’t feel qualified or capable. Like Frodo, parts of the journey become too hard to bear and we contemplate bailing.

The sacrifice is too much and sorrow surrounds us immobilizing our efforts. We cry, we ask God why He chose us for such a task. We ask Him to pass this cup from us because we can’t possibly see the outcome as favorable. We realize we may not survive. But He speaks across our hearts whispering to do His will and go with Him. He promises to be with us and carry our burden when it’s too much to bear.

He is our Samwise Gamgee.

And though we cannot see it, this journey will create hope and healing for the great many people. Many will come to Christ through Jesus if we accept the journey from Him. So don’t be afraid to be used. Be honored and know that whatever journey God calls you take, He will make you capable through Jesus.

Question: Has God sent you on a journey you’ve been reluctant to accept?

The Return of the King

I have a shameful secret for a voracious reader to admit: I saw movie before I read the book.

I know, I know!

But, after seeing the The Fellowship of the Ring on December 26, 2001, I was absolutely in love with the story. I immediately went home with my family and dug out my dad’s old copy of the trilogy and devoured all three books during my Christmas break from college. By the time I went back to school, I was a huge fan of Tolkien and this wonderful, mysterious, beautiful, and dangerous place he called Middle Earth.

Me and Frodo in my college dorm room.

Me and Frodo in my college dorm room.

So much so, in fact, that I was given a card-board cut out of Frodo Baggins for my 19th birthday that has been on many adventures with me (including living in my dorm room for three and a half years, going to a semi-formal dance, starring in my first student film, and now currently residing in my office). I bought the four-disc extended editions when they were released and held LOTR parties with my friends. I named a plant I was raising Legolas. I even took a Tolkien class in college devoted to studying his works, including “The Silmarillion.”

Me and my college roommate, Ruth, took Frodo to a dance.
Me and my college roommate, Ruth, took Frodo to a dance.

But what is it that drew me to The Lord of the Rings?

You know, I can’t really say it is one thing. There are so many facets to the story, so many lessons and virtues to be mined and polished from, what is essentially, a story of good versus evil. One of my favorite books related to this is “Tolkien’s Ordinary Virtues” by Mark Eddy Smith.

SamwiseAlthough there are many heroes in LOTR, my hands down favorite character is Samwise Gamgee, Frodo’s loyal gardener, trusted friend, and most staunch ally. I love Sam’s devotion, his optimism, his servant’s heart, his willingness to sacrifice everything, even his life, not in the name of saving the world from the destructive power of the Ring, but rather in the name of his friendship with Frodo. The scene of him carrying his master up Mount Doom because Frodo is too weary to continue the quest brings a tear to my eye.

But one of my most favorite passages in the whole of the story is just a small scene, hardly even a paragraph long, and not even worth a few seconds in The Return of the King film. Frodo and Sam are trekking across the wasteland that is Mordor, exhausted, nearly out of food and water, and practically defeated by the growing shadow of the Ring. Frodo falls into a weary sleep, while Sam keeps watch.

He peers out from their hiding place, the sky dark with clouds, menace, and the shadow of Sauron.

“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tower high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”

This, to me, is the heart of The Lord of the Rings. That goodness and light are beyond evil; that no matter how dark and awful things on earth are, God and His Heaven will triumph over all. God has always been, always was, and always will be be.

The journey may be fraught with danger, despair, perhaps even death. Frodo and Sam make it out alive but with great personal sacrifice. But Sam knew that in the end, even if he and Frodo failed, or they were killed, that good would win in the end. Just as Aragorn reclaimed his throne, our King Jesus will return in the end, to wage war on evil and triumph in the end.

“Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity.” Psalm 93:2.

A Samwise Kind of Love

Boromir was tempted. Galadriel was tempted. Even Frodo was tempted in the end. It was an ordinary gold band that immortalized the worst kinds of evil Middle Earth had ever known. Gandalf knew the ring would have power over him and so he declined it when Frodo asked him to take the burden of the ring from him.

The Lord of the Rings is not known as a love story. But truly it is. The person with the biggest heart and the most steadfast love is Samwise Gamgee. Just an ordinary hobbit living an ordinary life. There is nothing much to note about Sam. We first get a glimpse into the love Sam has for his friend Frodo when Frodo tries to leave him behind. Frodo sets off in a boat determined to carry the burden of the ring alone. Although Sam cannot swim, he follows after Frodo into the water. Frodo is forced to save his hobbit friend or let him drown.

Samwise quote 2Later in the story when it is apparent to everyone but Frodo that Smeagol aka Gollum was manipulating Frodo, Sam suffers abuse for trying to reveal the creature’s less than honorable antics. Later Smeagol makes Frodo believe Sam has stolen the last of the food, and he is left behind. Sam comes to the rescue, though, when Frodo is led into a trap and captured. Sam saves him and continues to encourage Frodo in his trek to Mt. Doom until the ring is finally destroyed (no thanks to Frodo’s desire to keep the ring.)

Love doesn’t let others carry their burdens alone. Love does not give up, even when you can’t go on any further. Love believes when all hope is gone. Love, when paired with bravery and determination, can defeat any evil that challenges it.

I want the kind of love Sam showed Frodo. I want a Samwise kind of love.