August 16, 2009

Frodo and The Lord of the… decisions?

By Sean McPherson *

In life, we are constantly faced with challenges and decisions.  How is it possible to know God’s Will when a choice can indelibly change the future? We can find some light on this subject by diving deep into the popular story of Frodo Baggins in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy.


At the commencement of Frodo’s journey, he is nearly entirely at the mercy of Gandalf and Aragorn. Although they may ask his opinion, he will not make a choice with which they would disagree. It is very easy for Frodo to be in congruence with their wills because they are a near and ready source of protection, and they have strong, noble voices that reflect truth. As a Christian, one often feels as Frodo does. God seems near at hand and we can hear his omniscient voice clearly. This is the first step in making a grave decision, seeking the voice of God that is near at hand and asking for His good guidance. For a majority of decisions, when one is near God, the path is paved by the Holy Spirit. Our peace and confidence are easily upheld when we feel God guiding each step.


As Frodo travels, the voice of Gandalf is lost, and the decisions are left primarily to Aragorn. When the Fellowship reaches the point at which a serious decision must be made - whether to take the ring and fight a war in Minas Tirith or to destroy it in the lands of Mordor - Frodo has little guidance in the decision he must make.  Thoughts of what Gandalf would want him to do, what will protect his dearest friends, and what is best for all of Middle-earth's inhabitants are racing through his mind. He eventually decides to simply go alone to Mordor, as he does not wish any of his company to face the darkness that awaits him there. His best friend Sam guesses Frodo’s decision and follows him to Mordor.


This situation mirrors many of the critical decisions that Christians have to make in the world - discerning a vocation, finding or leaving a job, moving a family. Each option seems to offer its own prosperity and problems, and we often seem alone in the decision-making process.  Frodo’s actions offer insight into methods of choosing the correct path. Firstly, trust in the previous guidance you have received. In times of seeming desolation when making a decision with no clear answer, look back to where God has directed you thus far. He has led you to your current predicament for a reason, and the past will often illuminate those reasons. Secondly, sometimes it is necessary to force yourself to make a decision without consolation. We must go out on the farthest limbs and trust that God will not let us fall. This may mean leaving our comforts behind. Finally, realize that God will never leave us entirely by ourselves in desolation. He will always give us some grace to help grapple with new conflicts, like a best friend. It is by this grace that we can be confident in what we have chosen to do, or not to do.


A Christian can never forget his surest means of making a decision, deep and reflective prayer. Through conversation with God in this manner, we will be able to clearly hear His voice if it wishes to be heard, see the grace that God has given to us in the past, boldly make a tough decision, and receive consolation that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. Ultimately, in all of our decisions, we must strive to maintain peace. St. Faustina says, “God looks at the intention with which we begin and he grants the reward according to this intention.” It does not assist us in any way to be preoccupied or fearful of the actions we take; God simply wants us to rest in His tranquil arms.

Sean McPherson is a sophomore at the University of Notre Dame, where he is studying chemical engineering and theology.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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