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Blog: Lee Younger

With Great Praise

CCC Oak Ridge

I’ve cried too much today. Now my face feels sore and my eyes sting and I feel simply emotionally tired. The worst part? All those tears were over something that didn’t even really happen!! I’ve spent the last thirty minutes or so sobbing over a couple of hobbits who don’t even exist and now the only thing I feel like doing is writing about them! Yes, I know, The Lord of the Rings is just a book and Frodo and Sam are not real people. I know that Gondor, Ithilien and Orodruin were just inventions of a middle-aged English linguist and that none of the great battles and brave deeds described in those pages really happened, but something I came across in that amazing story shook me to the core today. To borrow Professor Tolkien’s term, it smote my heart.

You see, I want to turn loose of this world. More and more as I go through the days of my own pilgrimage here, I want to relax my grip on all the earthly things that both pick me up and burden me down. I want to forge a gaze so fixed on the rock solid reality of the world to come that both the present troubles and prizes of this world fade into the ethereal mist that they really are. In other words, I want a homeward heart.

This afternoon, as I was trudging along with Sam and Frodo at the very end of their quest, something happened in the story (Yes, I know it didn’t really happen) that resonated with my homeward heart. When it happened, I burst into tears, because it’s the thing above all things that I’m looking forward to. You see, a few years back, my pastor pointed me to a verse in chapter 4 of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians which has become one of my very favorites. Paul says, “Judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive His praise from God.”

Behold the grace of God! He sends His own Son to die in our place, forgives our sin and makes a place for us in His eternal kingdom; but not only that, at the world’s end, the King and God over all, who has forgotten our offenses and crimes will praise those He has bought to the wonder and bliss of our quaking, grateful hearts. Wow. Can you dare to imagine the joy of that moment? It’s something I love to think about and long to believe with all my heart, but sometimes I forget and get burdened down with my own failures and filled with doubt.

That’s where I was today when Sam and Frodo made it to the very end. The ring was destroyed and the hobbits fell asleep from dreadful pain and weariness on the crumbling slopes of Mount Doom. As they slept, they were carried off by the Great Eagles to the camp of the King. When Sam awoke, he found himself in a bed within a tent, surrounded by the smell of flowers. Gandalf was there and said that he and Frodo must dress and present themselves to the King, so they put on their old ripped and torn rags and left the tent. When they did, they saw knights in shining mail, bowing down to the hobbits, then drawing swords and shaking spears, blowing horns and trumpets and proclaiming with loud voices, “Praise them with great praise! Frodo and Samwise!” Then Aragorn, the King placed them on his throne, bowed down to them and shouted out, “Praise them with great praise!” Finally, a minstrel of Gondor sang a song of their long toil and...

“When Sam heard that, he laughed aloud for sheer delight, and he stood up and cried: ‘O great glory and splendour! And all my wishes have come true!’ And then he wept. And all the host laughed and wept, and in the midst of their merriment and tears, the clear voice of the minstrel rose like silver and gold, and all the men were hushed. And he sang to them until their hearts, wounded with sweet words, overflowed, and their joy was like swords, and they passed in thought out to regions where pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.”