I recently went to see The Hobbit; however I’m still in the middle of reading the book. Since then, these past few days, I have been watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and it has taken me in completely. I’ve been noticing so many parallels to that ring in the crosses we bear: my own crosses and those of all of us. When we enter into a relationship, whether it is with our child, our partner, a best friend, or even a mere acquaintance, we set off on a journey with each of them, a journey of growth and assured transformation. And within each relationship, whether it be with family, friends, or strangers, the whole of that relationship is always much greater than the sum. Two plus two equals so much more than four. Sometimes the energy between two people is explosive, and many times that. Also included are beloveds and in my particular case, my five unborn children and those closest whom I have lost.
When I stop to reflect on my many journeys, I compare it to looking out the window of a moving train. I observe the scenery of changing landscapes, and oftentimes the weather is not so pleasant. Other times sunshine and beauty illuminate the fields as shapely clouds go flying by. But recently I’ve found that I am not that passenger in that train looking out the window after all. No, I am in fact the actual train. And I am understanding how even someone’s silent presence in going through a tunnel or loud roar through a pasture can have such profound effects on the environment around them. I must be careful and loving. And here is the cross, the ring. It seems that in every relationship we enter into with our hearts, especially the close ones, there are sacrifices and burdens that intermingle with the joys.
With Frodo’s ring there was beauty and the promise of fulfillment calling out from the ring. Each person who gazed upon that ring imagined their most fervent dreams coming true. And yet there was a price to be paid for these dreams, and that price can ultimately be all consuming. Frodo’s sacrifice despite all of the labor, the despair, and the tragedies had a certain Grace in the end. His relationship with that ring made him a wiser, more loving and assuredly much different person. I like to think that he became a bigger, stronger hobbit, and yet he did not come through unscathed, neither for his bodily injuries nor for that phantom blade still remaining in his shoulder. It would continue to haunt him. I feel my own embedded phantom blades profoundly. I think each one of us has them, and I feel each phantom acutely; there is no ideal relief. But then there are also the rewards. For his part, Frodo gained the honor, respect and friendship of his companions and of the King Aragorn who was, by the way, unbelievably hot. To me these are all Christ figures as well, my favorite of all (and even hotter still) being Sam.
At the end of the final movie there was a quote that resonated through me and is exactly how I have been feeling but unable to say. “How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart, you begin to understand, there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep…that have taken hold.” On the whole, the Lord of the Rings trilogy seems a story about sacrifice and re-birth. There was a scientist who made the observation that when a person dies the cells in that person don’t die, at least not immediately. They go through a grieving process and somehow come to understand that they are no longer a part of that whole, and so they wither away and come to be part of a new whole. That whole may or may not constitute the same cells as when the body regenerates or a person is resuscitated, but the relationship between these cells now take on new meaning as the person as a whole transforms. The person who dies in a near-death experience and then comes back to life comes back as a different person, a different whole. This must apply to our inward sacrifices and re-births. As Thomas Merton said “To be born again is not to become somebody else, but to become ourselves.” And so I am moving forward from my own ruins, emerging fully alive.
Copyright 2016. Christine Tsen. All rights reserved.