Eowyn: “I fear neither death or pain.”
Aragorn: “What do you fear, my lady?”
Eowyn: “A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them. And all chance of valor has gone beyond recall or desire.”
These words of Eowyn stir my soul. I, too, share her fear. Only my fear goes farther. I fear I’m already in a cage. I fear I’ve used them long enough that I’m beyond accepting them…I want them. I protect them. I fight for them. I fear that my chance for valor has already come and gone.
Not all the time. And certainly not intellectually. I “know” that my moment hasn’t past. Further, I know that my opportunity for valor is a daily choice, that it comes and goes constantly, and that in each and every moment lies my chance to be love or be less. To be courageous or be common. Manly or mediocre. I know this.
But sometimes. Like when I watch an epic like Lord of the Rings, see the life and death war going on so clearly, witness people clearly choose sides, and then watch different characters on the side of good argue and choose whether to be brave or cautious. Something in me, something deep, rushes to the surface. When I see Eowyn, even (maybe especially) when navigating unbelievable circumstances, any one of which would suffice in giving her an excuse to check out and merely survive (the unfair death of her cousin, the banishment of her brother, the loss of her uncle’s mind, the suffering of her people, her own injuries and limitations), without hesitation and with fire speak what it is she does and does not fear. Those times…when my soul is stirred…my secret fears rush to the surface.
And when they rush to the surface, and I choose dedication instead of denial, I admit that I fear that my fears are the opposite of Eowyns.
I fear that I fear death or pain (and pain more than death).
I fear that I do not fear a cage.
- That as long as I can feel like I chose it, I’ll call it freedom.
- That as long as it provides enough comfort, I’ll call it my calling.
- That as long as it affirms me enough that I’m making a meaningful difference, I’ll stick with it.
- That as long as it keeps telling me I’m courageous, I’ll pretend that I am.
I read one of his essays this morning in a moment of stillness, and in it Thomas a’ Kempis says, “Those who are great in love are truly great.”
Am I truly great? Am I great in love?
The answer is no. In the arena of love, I am a beginner. I am addicted to it, and I have spent my whole life attempting it, but I am still a novice.
When you consider the standard of love taught to me by my teacher, and modeled for me in dramatic fashion, I must admit that although it is the area that I have spent the most time on, I am can hardly consider myself competent in it. I rarely love like this.
Surprisingly, this encourages me, and emboldens me. It reconnects me to the clarity of the life and death battle of which I am in the midst, helps me see who has chosen good (abundant life) or bad (life in a cage), and helps me decide that, since I have such a long distance to go, I can give my all to it and never run out of work. I will never exhaust the riches that come from pursuing this life of ever-increasing love. It has been, is, and will be the adventure of my life. And just like Lord of the Rings, it is set in the most spectacular of settings, with the most interesting and colorful cast of characters, some of whom are (and all of whom have the potential to be) the most amazing people I have ever met! And I get to call some friends.
How great is it that these moments of opportunity, my moment to be all that I can be, will never run out, pass me by or escape me. Can anyone be too old, too weary, too slow, too spent, or too incompetent to give their life for a friend? I think not. Therefore, the highest greatness available to a human being is always upon us. The cage, no matter how long we have dwelled in it, no matter how accustomed we are too it, no matter how many agreements we have made, we can escape it. And live again.
Aragorn responded one more time to Eowyn in the above dialogue. He said, “You are a daughter of Kings. A shield-maiden of Rohan. I do not think that will be your fate.”
I don’t know what you believe, but I have become convinced that I’m a child of a King. A warrior of Good. I do not think the cage will be my fate.
Yet humility demands that I admit that I fear it will be. And living with that fear is seeming okay to me, because I think the life I want demands that I accept it as a friend that reminds me to choose to not be. Which will sometimes mean choosing pain. Maybe even death.
This writing has landed me on this new revelation, yet it sounds so familiar. Ah, yes. The life of choosing pain and suffering already belongs to someone. He called for it long ago. And it seems he’s calling me to it again.
So once again…my heart’s deepest longing leaves me no choice. I want the courageous life. The good life. The life that costs everything. The life that makes a God-honest difference. I must follow Christ.