Archive for December 2012

Bravery

December 17, 2012

​This must have been the scariest thing in the world to Mary. I mean, think about it. Put yourself in Mary’s shoes. Imagine what you might have been doing at the time when this Messenger of God made a surprise visit to your home to tell you that you’re pregnant with the Son of God. Were you sweeping the floor that morning? Maybe you were doing dishes after lunch. Perhaps you had just settled down to an evening cup of tea after a hard day’s work. No matter what you’re doing, it’s probably going to startle you when there’s another person standing in the room with you, unannounced. Furthermore, this Messenger of God, whom Luke tells us is Gabriel, tells you that you’re going to be a mother; and not just any mother, but mother to the Child of God. And your child will be “great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” All in all, a pretty normal Tuesday, right?

​And of course, Mary’s reaction is pretty much what I’d expect: “How can I be having God’s child? I’m a virgin!” And then the angel said something that I’m sure was very calming to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God… For nothing will be impossible with God.” That probably cleared up the confusing whirlwind of thought going on in Mary’s head. I imagine she probably had an inner dialogue that went something like this: “OK, this guy shows up, tells me I’m going to be pregnant with the Son of God, to which I reply, ‘How? I’m a virgin!’ and he explains that God will take care of the conception. But what’s going to happen to me now?”

What are people going to think about Mary when her pregnant belly starts showing and she isn’t yet married? What are her parents going to say when she has to break the news to them that she is with child but still not married? How is Joseph, the man she’s promised to, going to react when she tells him? Are these people going to scorn her? Will she be an outcast? Will she have anyone to turn to? This is all happening two thousand years ago! Mary can’t think that everyone is going to take this lightly and give her all the support a pregnant woman needs. No, I bet Mary was scared to death.

So what does Mary do? She steps up to the plate, accepting her role as the barer of God’s child and goes to meet Elizabeth. That’s bravery.

Now, I’m somewhat of a self-professed nerd. Every semester, usually the week before finals’ week, I do something I like to call “Trilogy Week.” This is where I watch all three Back to the Futures, all three of the first Indiana Jones movies, and all three extended editions of The Lord of the Rings. It’s kind of a self-care regimen. Anyway, when I was thinking about this Scripture it dawned on me that there’s a character in these movies that’s a whole lot like Mary. Frodo Baggins is a lot like Mary.

​Frodo had that same sense of bravery. Frodo is one of the main characters in the books and films titled “Lord of the Rings.” He’s just a simple Hobbit, which is a race of creatures in the mythical realm Middle-Earth that most other creatures have a tendency to not pay much attention to. Hobbits ignore the outside world in much the same way that the outside world ignores them. Hobbits aren’t known for being extraordinarily brave or adventurous, and as Frodo’s uncle, Bilbo, notes, they’re quite content to live their lives in a simple manner, concentrating on farming and the love of the food that they grow.

​But despite this simple existence, Frodo is called into a situation that is so far above and beyond this simple lifestyle, it’s almost unfathomable. Frodo has to save the world from the Dark Lord Sauron. Frodo has to take the Ring of Power, a creation of Sauron, to the innermost reaches of Sauron’s realm, Mordor, and throw the ring into the pit of Mount Doom, where it was originally created. Along the way, he’ll have to battle orcs and goblins, face down a giant spider, and resist the temptation to take the One Ring for himself and try to control the power that it would give him. Of course, when Frodo leaves his homeland of the Shire, he doesn’t know he’ll have to do all of this. He’s only supposed to meet his wizard friend, Gandalf, in a town that’s only a few days’ walk away. But even that seems kind of intense when Gandalf warns Frodo not to tell anyone of the Ring and to, “keep it secret; keep it safe,” in the most grave of whispers.

​And if that first part of the journey wasn’t enough, Frodo finds himself in the Elven city of Rivendale, where a council is deciding how to get the Ring to Mount Doom in Mordor. Now, at this point, Frodo has already almost died once because of his journey. He was stabbed by a Ring Wraith, an evil creature under Sauron’s control, and was healed by the elves, which took several weeks. His peaceful life of farming and eating is already long gone, and Gandalf says, in a conversation with Lord Elrond, the Elven king, that he cannot ask Frodo to do anymore. Frodo has already done enough. But during this council of men, dwarves, and elves, a fight breaks out. This fight gets more and more intense and the ring starts to display its power when Frodo sees an image of all the council members being engulfed in flames. Frodo stands from his chair and shouts above all the arguing, “I will take it! I will take it! I will take the Ring to Mordor! Though… I do not know the way.”

The council falls absolutely silent. Everyone is stunned at the sound of a Halfling’s voice rising above theirs. This is a creature that stands less than half the height of any man in the room, but Frodo is still saying he will take the Ring to Mordor. Frodo steps up to the plate and says he will face down death on a journey that will certainly take him to his limits in order to try and save the world. Frodo is willing to abandon his chance of going home, to the comforts that every Hobbit holds dear, and go forth from Rivendale on a quest that is almost certainly impossible. That’s bravery.

Like Mary in the Bible, Frodo is someone of virtually no consequence or importance to the world. These two characters in their respective stories by all rights shouldn’t have to be so brave. A recently engaged woman in the small town of Nazareth shouldn’t be called upon by God to do something so great as to bring God’s Son into the world. A Hobbit in the realm of the Shire shouldn’t have to bear the instrument of destruction of the Dark Lord to the ends of the earth in order to save the world. But those are the situations in which these characters found themselves. Much like Frodo in the Lord of the Rings, Mary is cast suddenly into a situation where she has to step up to the plate. And both of these characters do this in spades.

And here in our lives, the need for bravery is all around us. The world is faced with impossible tasks that need completing. Just the other day, 16 six-year olds, 4 seven-year olds, and 7 adults, many younger than me, were murdered in Newton, Connecticut – by a gunman in an elementary school. Every day, we see violence and injustice throughout the world. Every day, we grapple with how to make things right in the eyes of God. Every day, we have to determine how we are going to be brave in the face of an impossible task. The reason that the stories of Mary and Frodo resonate with us is because we see characters that we desperately want to be. We want to be able to stand up to the impossible task and say, “I’ll do it! I’ll be the brave one! I can be the one to make the difference!” So why don’t we?

I think deep down in their hearts, when they really looked at themselves, Mary and Frodo knew that they were not alone. Frodo knew he had the forces of good with him in his struggle. No matter how desperate he was in the story, Frodo knew that he had the support of Gandalf, the elves, and his best friend Sam – which I interpret to be the companionship of the Holy Spirit. And Mary knew she had God with her, not only because she was carrying God’s child, but also because God chose her. So when we are facing that impossible task, whether it is dealing with unfathomable violence or atrocious suffering, we need to look down deep in our hearts. There we will find that we have always had God with us. We will find that God is choosing us to be brave in this world. We are chosen to make a difference, to face an impossible task. But we have to remember that we are never chosen to face this task alone.

Much like Frodo, we’ll find ourselves saying, “I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.” And if we listen closely, we’ll hear the reply, with the wisdom of Gandalf, “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world… besides those of evil… and that is an encouraging thought” Take heart in such replies, because they tell us we are not alone, no matter how scared we are.

Beard Results!

December 11, 2012

Hey everyone!

Here are the picture results of both mine and Dean’s beards. I’d like to thank everyone that donated. We were able to raise over $300 for the Prostate Cancer Foundation (Pcf.org)! I’ll be back at it again next November!

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