I’m presently listening to a podcast called An Unexpected Journey. It’s a chapter-by-chapter theatrical reading of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings that incorporates the incredible film scores. It’s delightful and I can’t recommend it enough (especially if you’ve always wanted to read the books but got bogged down by the language).
As I was returning from a morning walk today, one of my favorite sections of The Fellowship of the Ring came up. This scene, tragically, didn’t make it into the films, so I sometimes forget about it. For context, a character named Frodo inherits this ring that is VERY SKETCHY and has to take it somewhere safer whilst being pursued by murderous un-dead dudes on horses because their boss is hella thirsty for this ring. Early in this journey, Frodo encounters a few wise folks who each tell him, “My dude, you can’t do this alone.” He is torn. How can he ask his friends to risk so much and take on a burden that isn’t theirs?
He makes his mind up to vanish into the night without his three closest pals. But then, we come to the scene in question. They sit him down and inform him that they know he’s planning to go off alone. The three of them have conspired to not let him. They’re going whether he likes it or not.
Frodo is flummoxed. He says, “But it does not seem that I can trust anyone.” One of his pals replies, “It all depends on what you want… You can trust us to stick with you through thick and thin–to the bitter end. And you can trust us to keep any secret of yours–closer than you keep it yourself. But you cannot trust us to let you face trouble alone, and go off without a word. We are your friends, Frodo.”
I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this: You’re listening to a song or reading a book and there’s a line or a scene that unexpectedly hits you right in the feels. Art is sneaky like that. We look around and wonder why nobody else seems to be feeling a sudden urge to bawl their eyes out. Even now, some of y’all are probably tearing up. Others are rolling their eyes and thinking this is the nerdiest and most obtuse way to lead into a conversation about relationships ever.
But for those of you who are still with me, what strikes me about this scene is the steadfastness of Frodo’s friends. It would be easy for me to linger here ad nauseum, rhapsodizing about commitment and constancy and friendship. I want to paint a grand, compelling picture of how this might apply to our lives, especially for us singles. I’d love to keep this conversation conceptual rather than personal. Because when I think about planning for the future, I don’t tend to anticipate a ton of relational constancy. In fact, I tend to picture myself solo.
I think part of that is because it feels like there are too many variables to create a clear picture of what might or might not be. So it seems safest to go with the one constant I feel sure of—myself. Not the most flattering thing for a Christian writer to admit. The answer we were looking for was “Jesus,” and yet, here we are. Perhaps part of that is being old enough to have a solid amount of life to look back on, but young enough to not necessarily know what to make of that information. I don’t say any of this to get you to feel sorry for me. I say it because I think it might be relatable for some of y’all. And sometimes, hearing our feelings through someone else’s words makes us feel less alone.
I suppose the point of making plans and wanting things is more about orienting our lives than it is about everything going according to plan. How we see our future affects the decisions we make today. Whether we reach that vision in the way we imagine or not, that picture determines what we live toward. Even if we acknowledge how much is outside of our control, we can be honest about the picture we have, how we might like to tweak it, and prayerfully consider what’s getting in our way.
It is, I suppose, a little defeatist to pull a Frodo and dramatically steal off into the night. I think the main takeaway from this scene isn’t necessarily some grand statement about friendship. It’s the fact that his friends were always willing to go with him, even if he couldn’t bring himself to ask. If he’d just dramatically stolen off into the night, making the choice for them instead of just having a bless-ed conversation, it would have confirmed a belief that wasn’t true. It would become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
When we think about our relational future, I think it’s important to be honest about our feelings. I think it’s also important to challenge the story those feelings are telling us. Where is my imagination being limited by my past experiences? Where am I making decisions for people instead of talking to them? I’m not saying we should get our friends to make a ride-or-die commitment like Frodo’s did, but perhaps the first step is having the courage to voice our desires to someone we trust.
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