I’ve spend much of this week in Middle Earth, listening for a second time to The Fellowship of the Ring, first book in Tolkien’s Rings Series. I’ve taken on a cleaning job at my church part-time, a job that helps keep gas in my mini-van and pays for things like college text books. It’s no small task cleaning my church; I’m responsible for what feels like acres of vaccuuming, cleaning bathrooms, dusting offices, disinfecting nursery toys, washing out communion trays… More than one person has suggested that I’m some sort of saint for taking it on. It’s true that I now have vaccuum-calluses on my right hand (to go along with my fingertip keyboard-calluses), and I suppose I’ll go on letting people think I’m some sort of selfless martyr…
But they don’t know my secret.
I know that you, my literary soul-mates, who understand the lengths one will go to for time in a fictional world, will know what I mean when I tell you it’s pure joy for me to head up to church, not because I love wiping up unmentionable splatters in the restroom marked, “Brethren,” but because I’ve always got a friend with me. Someone like Tolkien, who speaks to me through headphones, taking me far away from thoughts of goldfish crackers mashed into carpet by toddler feet and into another world. Yes, people, I get paid hourly to listen to adiobooks and burn a few calories while dwelling in the house of the Lord. Really, I’m thrilled.
This morning, I weaved up and down the rows of chairs in the sanctuary walking the vaccuum like a dog named Hoover. Dragging its cord-leash behind, it sniffed hungrily at crumbs of dirt left from Sunday, then devoured them. I followed, listening as the voice in my earphones described the departure of Frodo the hobbit and his company from Lorien, the home of elves with whom they’ve just spent some time. The gracious elves have provided the company with boats and provisions for the dangerous journey ahead. They’ve also made cloaks for each member of the party. The cloaks are obviously special, made of some strange fabric and color. Sam, who is intrigued by elves and magic asks, “Are these magic cloaks?” The elf presenting the cloaks replies, “I do not know what you mean by that…They are fair garments, and the web is good, for it was made in this land. They are elvish robes certainly, if that is what you mean. Leaf and branch, water and stone: they have the hue and beauty of all these things under the twilight of Lorien that we love; for we put the thought of all that we love into all that we make.” (Tolkien, 1954)
That last part- “we put the thought of all that we love into all that we make”- stuck in my head and I had to go home and look it up in my hardcopy of the book. For, over the last few chapters, I had grown to love the land of Lorien, a place of beauty where no evil could dwell. I could imagine how lovely a cloak fashioned with the very substance of this place would be. And it made me think of all the articles and quotes I’ve read about writing as a Christian- how we don’t need to preach our message, but simply write our stories. Because if we have a heart full of love for God and His kingdom, our worldview will flood onto our pages, and hopefully, things like grace and love and redemption will shine through in our work. The elves put the thought of all they loved into all that they made. Do we work with the ever-present thought of the One we love? Perhaps, just perhaps, if we do, there will be something- dare I say- magical about what we create. Something a bit more than plot and charactors and dialogue.
Lord, my mind strays often and far from thoughts of You and all the beauty and glory of all that You are and all that You’ve done for me. Thank You for reminding me that You are the magical element that can’t be found in any how-to book on writing. Help me to skillfully and faithfully put thoughts of You into all that I make. Amen.