In JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Frodo Baggins, discouraged by the seemingly impossible task before him — to destroy the evil ring he carries by returning it to the fires of Mordor — a task on which the whole salvation of Middle Earth depends, bemoans: “I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened …” to which the wise wizard Gandalf replies, “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, Frodo, besides the will of evil.”
I imagine each of us, in our own way, has felt something similar lately to what Frodo expresses in Tolkien’s mythological tale. I wish none of this had ever happened. Whether the yearning is to turn the clock back hours, months, decades or centuries for a “do-over”, this ache is familiar.
But as we all know, unlike the opportunity to take part in our new weekend worship videos (which usually allows the time to record a few takes as needed), our individual and collective lives play out in real time with no “rewind” or “re-record”. We cannot take back the words we said in the heat of anger. We cannot return to life pre-COVID. We cannot erase centuries of injustice inflicted upon fellow human beings because of race.
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, Frodo, besides the will of evil.
A beloved “icon” of our parish, Dottie Hopkins, returned Home earlier this week. She was 92 and headed up our altar guild for over 40 years. She loved the church, loved Redeemer, and loved the ministry to which she devoted her time and energy for decades. When she came to understand during a recent visit that we as a parish would not be worshiping together indoors in the numbers and manner that we have been accustomed, until perhaps sometime next year, it was as if the last “question mark” was finally answered for her. Next year was too long to hang on and wait around for.
“How do you want to go?” she asked me as we sat in the sun on her back patio, six-feet apart.
“Do you mean, how would I like to die?”
“Well … yeah …” she said.
I thought for a moment. “Well if I have a choice, I’d like to live to a ripe old age and die in my own bed, in my sleep, with my loved ones nearby.”
“Yep, that sounds about right,” she said, softly and matter-of-factly.
And that’s how she went.
May we, like Dottie, with the time given to us, set our hearts and minds to tasks which demand our best efforts, so that we may, when our Time comes, “Go in Peace,” having loved and served Our Lord in one another.