Thursday, February 6, 2014

Is Everything Sad Going to Come Untrue?

With that Gandalf stood beside him, robed in white, his beard now gleaming like pure snow in the twinkling of the leafy sunlight. "Well, Master Samwise, how do you feel?" he said. ... "Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What's happened to the world?" 

"A great shadow has departed," said Gandalf, and then he laughed, and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land; and as he listened, the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days upon days without count. It fell upon his ears like the echo of all the joys he had ever known. But he himself burst into tears. Then, as a sweet rain will pass down a wind of spring and the sun will shine out the clearer, his tears ceased, and his laughter welled up, and laughing he sprang from his bed.
I don't know how many times I've read Lord of the Rings, but it's been many, many times, both to myself and out loud to my children, and I think that my youngest daughter may have read it to me. Still, when our retreat master read that eponymous phrase to us Sunday morning, I didn't remember that I'd ever heard it before. How evocative that question is. It is, I think, a yearning that resides in the deepest recesses of our hearts. 

Just so the apostles must have felt when they encountered the Risen Christ, like the Pevensies in Narnia--death itself working backwards. So will it? Will everything sad come untrue?

Well no, not in the way that the question seems to imply. Frodo, like Our Lord, (and like ourselves) bears his wounds, and life in Middle Earth, will never be the same. The evil ones have been routed, but they are still around and will certainly not surrender forever. Still, the shadow has departed. Likewise, our enemy is still prowling around seeking to devour whom he may, but his shadow--the threat of never-ending doom--has been dispelled for those who have eyes to see.

While we would like the sad things to have never been, Our Lord, of course, Whose ways are not our ways, has a better plan. He's the Great Recycler of the universe--never letting anything go to waste, and never content to just make something like new, He goes about making it better. Adam's sin becomes a happy fault. Jesus's pierced hands and feet become "rich wounds yet visible above;" and our wounds become the conduit through which we receive His grace and then pass it on to others.

"Is everything sad going to come untrue?" I wonder if perhaps in the end everything sad is going to have been untrue. Not that the sad things will not have happened, or that they will not have been horrible, but that they will somehow be seen as the cause of our joy. Sadness is, after all, a reaction to that which we deem to have been destructive: destructive of our bodies, destructive of our relationships, even destructive of our faith. But what if at last we see the wounded hands of Our Lord behind it all? 


  1. Well said, Janet! I see it's time for me to revisit Middle Earth.