“If you want to know, I felt as if I hadn’t got nothing on, and I didn’t like it. She seemed to be looking inside me and asking me what I would do if she gave me the chance of flying back home to the Shire to a nice little hole–with a bit of garden of my own.”
Sam Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
One of the most beautiful attributes of our great God is His understanding of us. He understands us better than we understand ourselves. He knows when we are behaving in love, in pride, or in a strange combination of both. What may look to the rest of you like my generosity may just be my own desire that you see me as generous. I am a complex jumble of motives. Sorting them out would be like trying to put a plate of spaghetti in order. God sees me clearly.
When Adam told God “I was afraid because I was naked,” God asked Adam, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” God was not asking for information. He was holding up a mirror to Adam so Adam could see himself. He was holding Adam accountable for his choice to eat the fruit.
Adam’s first instinct was to cover himself. But God already saw, already knew. Adam lost the garden.
Sam Gamgee standing before Galadriel in Tolkien’s Fellowship felt naked. He might have been almost as uncomfortable as Adam and Eve were before God. And Sam wasn’t the only one of the fellowship who had a sense of being undressed before the great queen. “Each had felt that he was offered a choice between a shadow full of fear that lay ahead, and something that he greatly desired: clear before his mind it lay, and to get it he had only to turn aside from the road and leave the Quest.”
Turning from the quest would mean a garden for Sam, but Sam knew that the fruit of such a garden would be bitter indeed. It would represent his turning away from his purpose, from his commitment to Frodo, from his pledge to see the quest fulfilled or die trying.
And it’s worth asking whether Sam could go back to the Shire and just be Sam. Or would he be Sam Gamgee, the Hobbit who went on a quest and turned back? In grasping for the comfort of home and community, would it be ever lost to him?
We who have stepped on the path of Christian faith have our quest before us. What should I do today to shine the light of the great King? Complex motives roil within us. Our natural tendencies are to avoid the shadows of fear and run to the somethings we greatly desire.
Our motive to please Him wrestles with our desire for comfort. We find that comfort in experiences, in material goods, and in the approval of other human beings. If we run away from our quest, we may find our comfort lost forever, as we dwell outside our garden, beyond a locked gate.
But not all comforts are diversions from the quest. The quest for Frodo, Sam, and their companions required a distinct lack of comfort—climbing mountains, battling foes, and overcoming losses. But there was gain as well. The gain of the fellowship, victory over enemies, success in the quest. Success in the quest is the greatest comfort of all.
Staying true to the path aligns the spaghetti on your plate. It takes you, ultimately, to your garden.
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