"Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.”
I think we can take a lot out of the typical fantasy story (found in a lot of books, movies, and video games today) and compare it to life-- especially the Christian life. Let me take a second and explain the typical fantasy story in case you have been living in a hole in the ground-- not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, but a comfortable hole… So here we go!
Boy (Yes, it could be a girl but for this story let’s just say a boy) starts off from a humble, usually poor beginning. To start the journey the boy finds a magical item or artifact, is visited by someone or something tragic happens to his family. One of these usually takes place to set the unlikely hero off on a quest to save something, be it a person, village, or the whole world. Along his journey he meets a bunch of characters that help him on his way, falls in love, and faces many challenges. Then the climax comes and he has to face an evil wizard, fight the dragon, defeat the army, or destroy a ring. In the end the hero prevails over evil and he accomplishes his goal and saves the world, village, or person, but usually not without some sort of sacrifice. Then he wins and he lives happily ever after… or until they make a sequel. NOTE: This is a typical fantasy storyline but that does not mean ALL fantasy stories play out like this-- this is just the stereotype. Now let’s break it down and compare it to our own everyday lives.
“It’s dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
-J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
We all start from humble beginnings and the moment we begin our quest and start to become the hero of our story is the day we accept Christ into our hearts-- this is the beginning for us as Christians as the old life is gone and we are a new person. As we go through life on our journey we meet all kinds of people and make some lasting friendships and acquaintances, these are the other heroes that help us along the way. These other heroes are on their own quests and helping us is just a small part of their journey, but it may have a big impact on ours. Most of us will fall in love at some point and some of us will even get married. After marriage a merging happens where two journeys join together and continue forward as one-- but there still will be two quests, one for each half of the partnership.
Then of course we all face trials and challenges as we continue forward on this journey-- resistance from the enemy and the rest of the world. To put these trials into perspective picture this, the hero is on his journey and he faces a challenge, find a key, defeat a rival, travel through Mordor, etc. What would happen if the hero gave up and said, “I’m done, the world can save itself.” Well that’d be a horrible story first off, and secondly it would mean the person, village, or whole world would perish, evil would win and the whole quest would come to ruin. Is it any different in the struggles we all face daily? What happens when we give up, when we stop fighting and surrender to the struggle? We die, maybe not right away, but it is a slow decay of ourselves-- our true selves, and the enemy wins. But what happens if we push through, if we continue on even when it seems like there can be no hope? What the stories don’t always show (but some do) is the power or the being greater than themselves helping the hero along, every step of the journey. And just like in the stories we have someone helping us every step of the way, guiding us, giving us a hand to our feet when we stumble and fall, and giving us the strength to face whatever struggle Satan or the world can throw our way!
"So far away we wait for the day
For the lives all so wasted and gone
We feel the pain of a lifetime lost in a thousand days
Through the fire and the flames we carry on!"
-Dragonforce, Through the Fire and the Flames lyrics
Now we find ourselves at that part of the story when we are at the edge of our seats, waiting with baited breathe for that crucial moment when the hero will vanquish evil. As we all know the enemy for us is Satan and our sinful nature-- our flesh. The goal we have in finishing the quest is not nearly as lofty as saving the whole world; it is saving our own life, our eternal soul. The goal for us is to defeat our flesh and live the life God has for us and inherit eternal life. Only we can’t do any of these things, we are powerless to help ourselves. We will never be good enough, work hard enough, try enough, love enough, or even be enough to accomplish this goal. But that is where Jesus comes in, He is the one who sacrificed Himself to save the world and defeat the dragon and even death itself. Jesus is the true hero of our story. He finished the quest and completed the goal that we can never achieve on our own.
“’I have come,’ said a deep voice behind them. They turned and saw the Lion himself, so bright and real and strong that everything else began at once to look pale and shadowy compared with him.”
- C.S. Lewis, The Silver Chair
We do still have an important role to play in our own journey-- an important side quest. But how, how can we do anything if we are powerless to save even ourselves? We have a decision to make, a choice between life and death, the “happily ever after” and the horrible ending. We have a choice to either take the hand offered to us and rise up or spit on it and turn away-- a choice to honor the sacrifice Jesus made for us or ignore His death on the cross. It is a simple decision really, and it only takes us saying “Yes” to God! All we have to do is invite Him into our hearts and the rest will happen on its own. But didn’t I say before that asking Jesus into our hearts was the beginning of our journeys? Yes it is, and it is also the end. You see once we make that choice, the battle is already decided, the ending is set in stone and we know the outcome. Jesus has conquered death and defeated Satan and when the end arrives He will defeat him again once and for all!
“Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:14a
All the rest, all the in-between on our journey through life, is for us to help others-- we are called to be a light, to shine in the darkness of this world. We are called to love others as ourselves, to help orphans and widows, to be a hand for our brothers and sisters, and support for our spouses. We are called to be a hero every day to those around us, those we know and love and those we just meet in passing on the street. We have a part to play, no matter how small it seems, to live our lives each day to the fullest with joy. Think about it this way: The hero is on a grand quest to save the world from the evil dragon, when he stops in a small village which is being attacked by some evil creatures. Now remember the hero is on a deadline to save the world before the evil dragon can unleash his magic and destroy all life. The hero decides to stay for a day and he defeats the evil creatures and saves the village, then continues on his journey. This is but a small part in the overall journey for the hero as he has helped many villages and saved many people on his quest. But think about the village, they have been oppressed by those evil creatures for months, maybe even years, when along comes a person they don’t know but who helps them. They don’t just see a hero; they see a stranger who is willing to fight for them, who shows them he cares and that their lives matter to him.
“Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it. And he is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many - yours not least.”
-J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
We can have this same effect on people just by showing them the love Jesus shows us every day-- because a lot people don’t get to see this kind of love often. What might be a small part in our journey-- even just our daily journey-- could have a big impact on the lives of those around us, people we don’t even know we are impacting. No matter how small the impact seems, how little we think we are helping, it could have long reaching effects on someone else’s journey-- good or bad. The ending is decided, we have been saved, and Jesus has won! Our quest has now becomes this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mathew 22:39) So, what will you live for?
"You have been chosen, and you must therefore use such strength and heart and wits as you have."
-J. R. R. Tolkien
From my desk to yours,
Joshua C. Chadd