Monday, August 31, 2015

The Ring and the Cross

What we can learn from children and J.R.R. Tolkien.

When that old enemy "doubt" comes knocking and I wonder if I have deluded myself into the notion that God exists and that He really does love me, I just take a breath and remember...

Am I kidding myself?

Generally speaking (I tell myself...), I don't think that my mind is strong enough to conjure up and maintain a lie that won't go away and deeply affects my daily life. I can't even stay on a diet or remember where I put my keys -- so, I don't think it's my own will that keeps me connected to Jesus. I have even tried to let Him go on occasion, but the simple truth is that He won't let go of me. He's got me -- and boy, am I ever grateful.

I am really tethered to God by my heart, even more so than by my beliefs alone. Both are important: My beliefs change my mind -- but my heart changes my life. So where does that come from and how does a person get it?

We need for our belief in God to be true, because it is true.

I recently read an essay by J.R.R. Tolkien entitled "On Fairy Stories," in which he outlines his formula for writing the fantasy fiction that made him famous. ("Lord of the Rings" and other stories.) But did you know that he was a Christian?

In his essay, Tolkien outlines the elements he used to draw in the reader through what he believed was a "memory trace" -- a heart Truth that we are born with but gets "deleted" as we morph into this physical world. And so through his writings, he made a way for us to remember what we lost, and what we desperately want to get back.

Remember when you were a child ...

Children are born with a spiritual nature and a natural capacity for tuning into the unseen world. We may call it imagination, but it is probably more accurately described as their soul -- which, for a time, is more accessible and often more real than the physical world. Children love and crave fairy stories and super-heroes -- and based on book sales and movie blockbusters, so do adults.

And Jesus said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3)

According to Tolkien, here is a list of the elements that most people, at some level, wish were true, and that speaks to the 'memory trace' that God placed inside of each of us.

  • Conquering death
  • Overcoming evil
  • Existing outside of time as we know it
  • Communication with non-human beings
  • Perfect love with no parting

If this sounds familiar, then you are probably a Christian. 

When you think about it, of course it makes sense! We see it in children everywhere. Maybe you even remember it from your own childhood. It really is our natural state. Even when it is bred out of us by growing up in this fallen world, we still long for it because it is true. It is how we were made and what we were made for.

Truth overcomes disappointment.

We lost it when we pinned our hopes on flesh to satisfy what only a spiritual being can provide. The bunny rabbit and Santa Claus can't survive the gravitational pull of our earthly reality. But God can, and He does.  So, when doubts arise, you don't need to try harder to believe, just remember who you are and who He is.

He made us for His unfailing love, 

and nothing else will do. 


 I have a song for everything:

"Your Love" by Brandon Heath
"I Still Believe" by Jeremy Camp 

Books about Tolkien's faith and writings: 

"The Gospel According to Tolkien" by Ralph C. Wood

"The Ring and the Cross" by Paul E. Kerry (Editor), Nils Ivar Agoy (Contributor), Bradley J. Birzer (Contributor), & 11 more 


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