I’m half way through the first book of The Lord of the Rings. Among my initial impressions, I can tell it was written by a pious man of catholic faith. So much of Tolkien’s imagery mirrors the spiritual life here, in our world. (I’m sure this was his intention.) Today I stepped away for lunch, as usual, to read a little of this story at a nearby coffee shop. I came to a portion that struck me, leading me to the thought, “Frodo’s plight is our own.”
Some important context…
As Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Strider sought to escape the Black Riders, they made their way to the top of a mountain named Weathertop. Believing it to be their safest option, they built a fire and chose to stay the night. Soon, they felt a deep sense of present evil and discovered they were being pursued by five Black Riders. As these approached in attack, Frodo feels an overwhelming compulsion to place the Ring on his finger – an act that he has been explicitly warned not to do by Gandalf. Disregarding Gandalf’s warning, Frodo places the Ring on his finger… and the story continues. Reflecting on the instance shortly after, he thinks the following:
He bitterly regretted his foolishness, and reproached himself for weakness of will; for he now perceived that in putting on the Ring he obeyed not his own desire but the commanding wish of his enemies.
Frodo’s temptation is common to the human experience. If we’re honest, often we find an inner compulsion, a strong urge, in certain situations to do the very thing we know with certainty we shouldn’t. This impulse can be so overwhelming that either we surrender and give in, or fight our will tooth and nail, not to. At the peak of Mount Weathertop, Frodo failed. We will fail at times, as well. Like Frodo, however, who had the discernment to realize there were forces at play outside his own desire, we should realize there are evil spirits, fallen angels, beckoning fallen human nature to surrender in these situations, too. Not every impulse is ours, alone. To think that they are is to misunderstand the very nature of spiritual warfare.
This weekend I had a conversation with my cousin. I asked him if he wanted to see Atlanta’s skyline from the top of the city’s highest building. My suggestion led us each to admit our mutual fear of heights. Then, he said something that caught me off guard – something that I think many experience but few admit. He said that when he is very high up, close to the edge, a strong urge strikes him to jump off. His confession led me to laugh uncomfortably, then admit the very same thing, myself. No doubt there are evil forces at play here. Most often, however, situations like these are not so obvious, and there in the shadows Satan’s deceptions can be most powerful.
Needless to say, I have a long way to go to finish this story, but I would be willing to guess that Frodo uses this difficult experience for the good. And that he comes out of it stronger and more prepared to face similar situations. Like him, we should take heart and do the same thing, always willing to walk in the light of the Trinity.