I love epics! When I read, watch or listen to a story that shows gives me a glimpse or sniff of the epic, there is something inside me that reaches deep, finds courage, or gathers strength to face whatever I am facing in my life. Or reminds me that my life is pretty easy… that happens too. Is this just me? Anyone else? I know that epics help me so much in my everyday life, so I try to put them in my everyday (or at least a few times a week) life.*
*This may be re-reading an number of books (the Lord of the Rings series, Narnia series, The Seeker series, The Space Trilogy, The Inheritance Cycle, various biographies of missionaries or historical figures, or even The Little House on the Prairie series (especially The Long Winter). It may also be from thinking about Epics I have read (at least in part) in the past, like the Odyssey and Illiad. It may also be from watching the movies that go with these books. It is not unusual for me to be reading one or another of the books in this list, along with health or business books I am reading. (Right now I am at chapter seven of LOTR: The Two Towers.)
Today I want to share some reflections that I have concerning epics. Maybe you’ve thought about or experienced some of these things before, and maybe you haven’t. But I believe that there is something inside each of us that responds to the essence of an epic tale. And I think there is good that can come from that response.
One of my epics-of-choice is Lord of the Rings. While I do enjoy and watch the movies, the books give a deeper picture, a chance to immerse with the characters and experience what they are experiencing as they journey in the race against evil.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve re-read this series, but each time I read through it, there is something that soothes my heart, makes me feel understood (or helps me understand something), or gives me a different perspective. (I think this happens because each time I read it I am in a different place—I am experiencing something new or in a different way, or I have learned more.)
But the personal strengthening I get from reflecting on these epic tales generally falls into one of three categories.
1. Your story is important!
Each of us have a story (or journey). And that story (journey) is important. Frodo may seem to be the star in the Lord of the Rings, but there are multiple stories involving different characters that are interwoven (at times) with each other. And in most cases, if the characters in those other stories did not act courageously, or if they had made a different choice, perhaps the great and evil Sauron would not have been overthrown. Every person is important:
- Without Sam’s support Frodo would have never made it
- Without Merry and Pippin’s appearance Isenguard would still be standing
- Without Eowyn’s care for her people Theoden could not have gone to war
- Without Bilbo’s gift Frodo would have been skewered by a troll in Moria
And there are so many more examples! While the comparison isn’t (of course) exact (as far as I know, there are no trolls), each of us something important that only we can do with our lives. And what we choose to do (and that we don’t give up) affects others in ways you may never know. You are important! Your life is significant, no matter how it feels. I mean, most of what Frodo did was walk! But would anyone say his part was insignificant?
2. There is a bigger picture!
So many times I am just putting one foot in front of the other. One more morning that I got out of bed. Several meals cooked and eaten. Another work day finished. A detox bath done. Lights out. I need epics to remind me of the bigger picture! As you read or watch any epic tale in which great deeds are done, I challenge you to pay attention to the timeline.
- How many miles did that person walk before they found adventure?
- How many days at sea before they found the next island?
- How many years of study before they became a Plato?
- How many failed experiments before they invented the lightbulb?
I never used to notice the timeline. And I was always frustrated that my big break hadn’t come yet, or that I was still in school, or that I wasn’t where I wanted to be in any number of areas in my life. Then I started to read phrases like “they traveled 2 weeks” or “he studied that language for 5 years.” And I realized I was missing something. I want to achieve the great thing now. I want to be done with the journey now. But that’s not how it usually works (really, almost never!). Even “The Greats” did not become great in one night, or many. Years and years of hard work are often represented by a single sentence in their biographies. Because most of life’s achievements are accomplished in the mundane. But those steps, mile after mile, are what prepare you for your great moment. And one day each of those steps will be the accomplishment of a journey. And one day you will probably notate all these hard years with a single sentence as well.
3. You are not alone!
It is common to feel isolated. Most people do (about 72% of Americans, according to a study done in 2016). We see loneliness in epic tales as well.
- Frodo felt he had to make the journey to Mordor alone.
- Aragon felt alone when Gandalf fell in Moria.
- Merry and Pippin felt alone when they were captured by orcs.
- Gimli felt alone when he was grieving Balin’s death in Moria.
- Gandalf felt alone when he was betrayed by Saruman the White.
You may argue. “You don’t know my life. I am alone.” I believe you! I believe that you feel alone! But that does not mean you are, or that you have to be. Frodo thought he had to go to Mordor alone (and tried to), but it was right and good that Sam went with him. Here are two reasons why you are not alone.
You have people around you who love you. People who care about you and would miss you if you were gone. They may be bad at expressing it, but I KNOW you have at least one person in your life that cares. Because if you truly can’t think of anyone else who cares about you, I care about you!
Also, there is another person who cares about you, and He cares way more than I ever can. His name is Jesus, and He died for you. I know He cares about you because He also cares about me. He has helped me and loved me in amazing, real ways! If you want to know more about Him and how He loves you, please reach out to me. (I also share some more about it in this post on hope.)
You are not alone because your experience of loneliness is something that we all experience. Everyone you know has experienced or is currently experienced loneliness in their lives. And while we may not get to hear the story of those around you (although I encourage you to ask), we can see this common human experience reflected in the epic tales.
The reason why epics resound so strongly with our spirits is because we know that we too are part of an epic tale. We alone can feel the true weight of a burden, feel the exhilaration of our victories, or the crushing weight of fear or feeling alone. We are the only ones who can walk each of the steps of our journey. But we don’t have to do it alone! At each step along the way there are companions. They may not be the ones you would choose (Frodo and Sam did not want Gollum to be with them, but they needed him). Some are only for a season (like the Fellowship), and others stay with you until the end (like Sam with Frodo).
Look around you. Who do you have next to you? Who may be your companions right now? I know how it is to feel alone. I have felt alone most of my life. I know that it takes tremendous courage to reach out. To get to know the people around you. To risk getting close to them even though you may get hurt. To initiate relationship again and again. But everyone feels alone and scared. Everyone is hoping for a friend to go through life with. But someone has to take the first step. And not everyone you reach out to will be your Sam, but someone may be. And maybe you will be a Sam to them. But you won’t know unless you try.
It takes courage to live in an epic. Dangers are near and frequent. Patience and long-suffering are needed. But only in an epic is the victory so notable, and success so sweet, and the ending make you cry with joy. And only when I view my journey as an epic tale can I bring into perspective the hard things in my life. For I know deep down inside that I was created for something great! Something eternal! Something magnificent! Can you feel it too? Our lives are epics. That means there will be wonderful things and horrible things that happen in them. But isn’t it good to know you are in an epic? Then you aren’t surprised at what you find around the next bend. So take courage! And journey,