Sunday, February 8, 2009

Torn Between Two Worlds

At the end of The Lord of the Rings trilogy Frodo is leaving Middle Earth to pass on into the West. He leaves Sam, his best friend and companion, behind. In their exchange Tolkien makes some brilliant observations about passing on from this world to the next.
'I wish I could go all the way with you to Rivendell, Mr. Frodo, and see Mr. Bilbo,' said Sam. 'And yet the only place I really want to be in is here. I am that torn in two.'

'Poor Sam! It will feel like that, I am afraid,' said Frodo. 'But you will be healed. You were meant to be solid and whole, and you will be.'
Sam doesn't realize where Frodo is going until later.
'Where are you going, Master?' cried Sam, though at last he understood what was happening.

'To the Havens, Sam,' said Frodo.

'And I can't come.'

'No Sam. Not yet anyway, not further that the Havens...Your time may come. Do not be too sad, Sam. You cannot be always torn in two. You will have to be one and whole, for many years [in the Shire]. You have so much to enjoy and to be, and to do.'
I'm feeling much like Sam as I see my mother-in-law passing away. There's a tearing that is taking place. Anyone who has lost a loved one understands. The apostle Paul wrote of the conflict when he said "I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account"(Philippians 1:23-24). He still had work on earth to do.

How does The Lord of the Rings end? Sam returns to the Shire to his wife and daughter.
Sam turned to Bywater, and so came back up the Hill, as day was ending once more. And he went on, and there was yellow light, and fire within; and the evening meal was ready, and he was expected. And Rose drew him in, and set him in his chair, and put little Elanor upon his lap.

He drew a deep breath. 'Well, I'm back,' he said.
As the apostle wrote for those of us who are left "in the Shire" here on earth, there is living and labor to do, and when our work for Christ and his kingdom on earth is through it will be our time to die and rejoice in Christ's presence which, of course, is great gain.

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