i just finished reading the lord of the rings, and subsequently watching the extended edition of each of the movies (each after i finished each of the books). i'm glad that i did it, and it has been really rich with imagery and symbols that have spoke to my life. there are so many characters to identify with and relations between the story and this journey we call life. i've written about them on here several times. and right now there is a new one--seemingly somewhat unrelated to those of the past, but also connected. all of these things are overlapping right now. it is in many ways a very rich time--rich with poverty and opportunity and challenge and community. sprinkle a nickel of hope and that's me right now. sort of.
anyway. i decided not to do anymore quotes. sorry.
instead, right now i am feeling that i have my own journey. i don't need to quote this story, but rather look at my life and take the things that i've learned--at this point more overarching themes. one of those themes throughout the book is the idea of "shadow." shadow is the darkness that seems to be all over the world of lotr. it stands in the path of just about every character to have to pass through. and i think that is something that is very reflective of all of our lives. we all have to pass through the shadow at one point or another. many will go through with their eyes shut. some will not survive the passage. every journey through a shadow is an opportunity. and we lose much opportunity because of fear. many times we will have to choose to go through that door ourselves.
it is looking likely that i will be living at 43rd street just east of prospect in kansas city next year. it is the first step in a movement from a call of the Lord. our community will seek to be a place of peace amidst chaos, prayer amidst curses, stillness amidst noise, light amidst darkness. it is in the neighborhood the kansas city star dubbed "the murder factory," because it produces more people in prison for murder than any other zip code in missouri. i will no longer refer to it as such, as it is a pronounced curse on the place and we will seek to do what we can to undo it. i am convinced that God is present there. but he needs workers, and we have been called.
a lot of people sort of freak out when i tell them about this. they sort of look at my like, "why would you want to live there?" it's a fair question. though i could give them the same look after a 5 bedroom 3 bath house for 2 people. we relish in comfort and extravagance while the economic and racial barriers only grow stronger. i don't put judgment or guilt on anyone else and what the Lord has called them to. but i wonder how many are where they are because of the call of God or simply because they haven't allowed themselves to listen for anything else. there is no need to raise our eyebrows at living differently, nor do i want any sort of acclaim for it either. the romanticism and idealism of it will quickly fall beneath the struggle and sacrifice of daily life and constant spiritual oppression and attack on ground where the devil has long held power.
there is something to remember in all of this though. the darkness is afraid of the light. so often we think it is the other way around. why are we afraid? we have the Lord on our side. what should i fear? man? or God? too long have we feared the darkness. too long have we backed away from the creeping shadow.
i don't want to be afraid anymore. i want to stare that doorway to darkness in the face and say "i do not fear death." and then i will walk right into that shadow--whether it be personal struggle and death or physical suffering and persecution. i want to be prepared to have my car broken into, or stolen. i want to be prepared to have all my possessions taken away. i want to be prepared to be beaten. i want to be ready to die. what is there to fear in death? is there not so much more to be gained? more would i fear a life of meaninglessness spent all on myself.
to die would almost be easy though. much harder will be the constant daily death of giving up the things that have made up my life before. the comforts and pleasures that placate me. the addictions that i use to pass the time and cover the holes in my life that i continually seek to find filled in things other than God, being so controlled by my own selfish desires of what i want for my life--made wrong by continuing to hold them above what God wants for me.
if you gave up one possession a day, how long would it take you to be completely poor? a really long time. in many ways we need the quick brutality of death to steal us away from the mass of attachments and idolatries in our lives. but only if we would make the choice ourselves--we will not be forced. we must receive the cup. and oh that i would be able to stare into it through my deep swills and not fear the death that brings about life.