Christianity and Middle-Earth

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Field of Cormallen

Guy over at Damascus Road has written of the grief and burden of his son’s chronic illness and how that long suffering has beaten at his own walk with Christ, battering him at times into the ditches of bitterness and weary despair.

I immediately longed to comfort him, to say something, anything, that might ease his hurt and fear, but I don’t know the words to use. Sometimes it feels almost an impertinence to think that I have any wisdom to impart to those enduring their own Mordor, especially when it involves the potential loss of a child; for all the length and breadth and darkness of my own treks through the Land of Shadow, still they have been on my own account and for my own suffering: I have never yet been confronted with terror for the life of my offspring. What do I then say that speaks to that?


The ditches are familiar territory, if not the impetus. I know well what it means to tumble into them, ditches that get deeper and wider until they become ravines, great gashes in the malignant soil of a very Old Forest, chasms leading only one way, implacable, unmerciful, and inescapable, into cold, cold Night. I’ve followed them many a time.

In that Night, I too have beaten in vain upon the gates to the city, invisible and unheard. I know the bewilderment of that barren place well; I’ve seen the worn pavement and the splintery wood and even the brown stain of other, bloodied, fists; the sign of those who have come before, who are beside, even those yet to come—the traces of their anguish and confusion and rage have left marks for all to see: other Christians have been here and other Christians will be here again, at the uncaring gates of an uncaring heaven.

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Time after time I beat and I pound and I screech and I weep, until at the end, long past exhaustion or even pain, limp and chilled death-cold with hopelessness, no longer making demands or pleadings, caring only that deep water is closing about my soul, I cry, with a sudden simple need, “Lord, save me!”

And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him…

And then I see. Only a little at first, but after each idiot trek down the ditches into the malice of a darker power, I see more, then more and then more, and here finally, I understand.

I understand that those unyielding portals were never the gates they pretended to be. The ditches of Night cannot lead to the doorway of Light. I have been lost and wandering and not where I meant to be at all.

But here, now…

And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him…

…my eyes are opened as I grasp that wounded hand.

I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.

Then the uncaring battlements of the Dark Tower crumble, and the imposter gates of the Dark Lord crash down like the last furious thunder of a mighty storm, and the Eye trembles and in a final gout of malice flames out and dies and is nothing, and the mountains round about fall, and the steams swirl apart and the dust is blown by a clear west wind, and there upon the plains of that vast and fruitless ruin comes a still, small voice.

And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

And now I can see clearly again and there is a green world beyond the edges of this dying one; we are ringed about with Life and Light and sweet new air; there, though my eyes were blinded and I could not behold them, are all the Shire-gardens we could ever desire, and the leaves of the forests are golden-bright, and the walls of the city gleam white in the sun, and the Gate—the Door—is open wide, forever and ever and ever. If I keep moving, though it be with canes and crutches or on hands and knees, I’ll get there. We’ll get there.

It is enough, beloved Lord. It is enough.


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