Butter Scraped Over Too Much Bread (May 21, 2012)

…Opening To…

Frodo heard a sweet singing running in his mind: a song that seemed to come like a pale light behind a grey rain-curtain, and growing stronger to turn the veil all to silver and glass, until at last it was rolled back, and a far green country opened before him under a swift sunrise. (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, Ch. VIII)

…Listening In…

‘Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread. That can’t be right. I need a change, or something.’ (The Fellowship of the Ring, Bk. 1, Ch. 1)

…Filling Up…

This week is the final week of devos for the 2011-2012 season. Devo180 will be on hiatus from Memorial Day through Labor Day, but other great content will be showing up on WheretheWind.com, so stay tuned. I began the second half of this season with a week of devos about a favorite film of mine, The Princess Bride. So I thought I’d end with another favorite, The Lord of the Rings, except I’d rather talk about the books than the films (which are also awesome, by the way). So without further ado, here’s the first of five days of reflections on our life with God as seen through the lens of J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece.

The quotation in the “Listening In” section above takes place right at the beginning of the story when Bilbo and Gandalf are talking before Bilbo’s secretive departure from the Shire. Bilbo has just used the ring for the final time and now he struggles to leave it for Frodo, his nephew. The ring has power over him, has been exerting that power for decades – slowly, patiently – so when it comes right down to it, Bilbo is quite reluctant to let go of it.

The ring was forged as a means of domination and used for evil purpose. By the time Bilbo discovers it, the ring has been lost for hundreds of years, but it has not lost its design. Thus, it represents the willingness of the individual to control his or her own life completely and eternally. While this might not sound like a bad thing, the eventual trajectory of such a desire leads either to total isolation or to total domination (which brings us back to evil purpose again).

When Bilbo says that he feels like “butter scraped over too much bread,” he clearly states what it feels like when we attempt the fool’s errand of taking total control of our own lives. When we neither wish for nor invite God’s sustaining presence into our lives, we too can feel “all thin, sort of stretched.” How many times have you felt at the edge of collapse? In the days leading up to it, how much did you rely on God? If you’re anything like me, then not much.

The answer to finding the right amount of bread to scrape our butter over (to stay with the simile) is giving up the ring as Bilbo does; that is, giving up our need to control, to dominate, to be self-sufficient. The good guys in The Lord of the Rings are never alone and there’s a reason for that. We need each other. We don’t need the ring.

…Praying For…

Dear God, you are always present in my life no matter how often I ignore you. Help me to let go of my need to control and to be self-sufficient so that I may rely on others and on you way before I begin to burn out. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, knowing that you have gifted me with companions to take the journey with me.

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