The following post was written by my son, Brian. I hope you enjoy the connections he’s made between The Lord of the Rings and the gospel followed up by a challenge to adventure.
The Lord of the Rings has always been one of my favorite stories. When I was a kid I enjoyed it for its intense battles and cool special effects, but now I recognize deeper meaning.
What I see are strong themes of friendship, sacrifice, and purpose. I also see an incredible adventure.
One of the many reasons why this story touches my heart is Sam.
Sam is the loyal friend who came alongside Frodo on his seemingly impossible journey. Sam never gave up on his friend, even though Frodo tried to run from him more than once.
We’ll get back to Sam later.
Another great theme of this story is adventure. Sam and Frodo left the comfort and security of the Shire, leaving behind all the ale, food, and songs for a dizzyingly dangerous adventure.
I currently live in the Shire.
I live in the comfort and peace of the northwest suburbs of Chicago. I regularly enjoy a seemingly unlimited amount of comfort, coffee and food, while the terrors of poverty, war, oppression, injustice, and evil are far away from my doorstep. I have been given a blessed life and I am very grateful, but there is just something in me that is screaming for something greater, something that looks more like the gospel of Jesus, something that looks more like the book of Acts.
Gandalf’s arrival in the Shire and his invitation to Frodo reminds me of Jesus as he called his disciples.
“Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” (Matthew 4:21-22)
This was the moment that changed these two brothers’ lives forever.
They started an incredible ride of persecution, struggle, betrayal, torture, and for James, martyrdom. These “sons of thunder” learned that calling down fire on a city is not always a good idea, they saw Jesus transfigured on a mountain, and most importantly they had an incredibly intimate relationship with Jesus that motivated them to live a life in bold and sacrificial service to him.
They gave up their comfortable Shire for a relationship with Jesus.
The lives of the apostles, the story of the rich young man, and the parable of the pearl of great price are only a few of the examples that come to mind that indicate that a core aspect of the gospel lifestyle is radical sacrifice of personal safety, comfort, wealth, social standing, reputation, possessions, careers, health, family, and a litany of other conditions that coincide with “the American dream.”
In exchange we get an adventure with Jesus. We get the blood sweat and tears of a life devoted to him. And, we get the Holy Spirit empowering us to boldly and radically obey the voice of God.
Which brings us back to Sam.
Sam kind of represents the Holy Spirit in our lives as Christians. If we stay in the shire we will have a decent relationship with him; we would be acquaintances, maybe even chums. He will do our gardening. He will be there humbly waiting as we sit in quiet and safety.
Then Gandalf comes. Then Jesus says follow me and you go. You drop everything and start following, for he invites you on an adventure.
The Holy Spirit, like Sam, is your friend, your companion who never leaves your side no matter how many times you try to run away from him. He’s the friend who carries you up the mountain when you are too weak to do it and a companion that rescues you from danger even though you were deceived by an emaciated lying creature.
When you’re on an adventure with Jesus, the Holy Spirit is no longer just the buddy that you acknowledge when you go to church, He is your comforter, counselor, guide, helper, and strength.
So I guess the question to ask is, when you think of your walk with the Lord do you think adventure?
Is your heart so captivated by the person of Jesus that you would follow him anywhere?
Are you willing to step out of your Shire, and walk down into the valley of the shadow of death? This is not meant as a criticism of a certain lifestyle. This is meant to be a challenge to continually reach down from comfort and safety to touch and care for those who are needy and oppressed, because that is exactly what Jesus did.
The ultimate story of leaving comfort and safety is the gospel. It is Jesus stepping down from heaven to save us.
So what are you waiting for? If you find yourself in a hobbit hole, try to poke your head out and look around. I am sure you will find someone waiting to send you on another adventure.
Sadly, I have never read The Lord of the Rings. This post, however, has inspired me to add it to my must read list for the summer. I look forward to seeing similar parallels. Blessings to you! 🙂
Thank you. You have no idea how this post spoke to me … so I’ll tell you. 🙂 I have been very close friends with a woman for 27 years, and she and her husband often characterize me as Sam. Although sometimes I get a little grumpy about that (I think “Why do I always have to be Best Supporting Actress?” 😉 ), generally I consider it a compliment because I LOVE Sam.
This spring my friend and I had a terrible rift in our friendship and it still has not been resolved. Two attempts to meet and talk it over have only deepened the divide between us. My friend refuses to be in our book club or writers’ group with me present. Very, very painful.
Last night I was overcome with the conviction that, no matter the details of the disagreement, I need to write to my friend and make a full apology — to take responsibility and ask forgiveness. I talked to my husband about it, and he agreed maybe it is the only way. Then I read your post this morning: especially the words, “Are you willing to step out of your Shire, and walk down into the valley of the shadow of death?” Although this may not exactly have been what you meant by adventure, I am sure that this post is God’s way of confirming for me that yes, this is one way to be Sam in our friendship, and that this is the right thing to do, no matter what the outcome may be. Thank you for these words of encouragement about God’s constant presence in our life journeys. I really needed this today.
I am so glad that you were able to find the courage to take a step to mend a relationship, and I feel so blessed that you found encouragement from the Lord through this.
Thanks, Brian. I just might take you up on your advice.
I love the post Brian. Trust me I am up for an awesome adventure!!
Lovely piece. My younger son and I just finished watching all 3 extended versions of LOTR and many of the appendices. Tolkien actually wrote that Sam is the hero of LOTR. I always felt so, too! We watch it every summer and every winter and I always get something I need from it. Someone wrote that Jesus was represented in aspects of Aragorn, Gandalf, and Samwise and that Frodo is each one of “us” — who must throw their will back into the volcano, as Jesus did on that fateful night. God bless you! Sheri (Shire with the letters changed around)
Thank you, I have always loved seeing new connections and parallels in those stories.
As a huge Lord of the Rings fan (I’ve read through all the books at least 5 times, and have seen the movies more times than I care to admit – haha. Oh, and I also have a LOTR poster in my library and two of my cats are named Arwen and Gandalf) – I appreciate the analogies here! Great post, great challenges….Thanks Brian.
Nice post, Brian–so good to “meet” you, as I’m a big fan/friend of your mom. Truly, my faith walk with Jesus has become an incredible Adventure!! Though I’m not a Lord of the Rings person, and was unfamiliar with some of what you talked about, I know about the Hobbit Hole all too well–occasionally I’ll visit it, but only briefly, as the LIGHT is much more alluring. God bless you BIG–Cj