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Samwise The Brave and That Hideous Strength

June 18, 2013
Sam in Ralph Bakshi's animated version of The ...

Sam in Ralph Bakshi’s animated version of The Lord of the Rings. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The most recent time that I read The Lord Of The Rings, I came to very much appreciate and admire the character of Samwise Gamgee, or as Frodo called him, Samwise The Brave. I was struck by his great love and devotion to Frodo and the mission of destroying the Ring. His dutiful resolve caused him to leave the Shire, follow Frodo through countless perils over hundreds of miles, as well as facing one of the most terrifying creatures is all of Middle Earth (Shelob).

I thought to myself, “I think that Sam is a great example of what a Christian should be. We should love Christ even more than Sam loved Frodo, for Sam most surely had phileo for Frodo, while we are called to have agape for Christ, as He has for us.” I thought that perhaps if I had more love towards Christ, I would, like Sam, follow Him anywhere. Even though I would be terrified at times, love would compel me on.

Most recently I read the Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis. Upon coming to the last book, That Hideous Strength, I read a conversation between Ransom (The Director, as he is called) and the charter Jane Studdock. In discussing the difficulties of her situation relating to her marriage, she tries to explain why she has a poor relationship with her husband. To this The Director tells her (and I have to paraphrase here) that she does not have a difficult time obeying her husband because she does not love him enough, she has trouble loving her husband enough, because she does not obey.

To give a very brief description of Jane, let me say that she is an independent minded, college educated woman married to a college faculty member named Mark. Her independence and his constant focus on career have made for a weak marriage. Both Jane and marriage are decidedly agnostic. Jane is particularly antagonistic towards Christian ideals about the roles of men and women in marriage.

Even though this book is a work of fiction, these words struck me with almost the power of a Scripture reading, a verse in a Church hymn, or a statement in one of liturgical prayers. Wow! It’s not that I haven’t loved Christ enough, I have not obeyed. I have known that the words for belief and obedience are etymologically the same in Greek, but I had really never paid the idea much mind. I thought of it as a nice concept to keep in mind, as a motivation in following Christ.

Jesus Himself told us that if we love Him, we will obey Him. I think that because of the order that those words are written in, for years I had the idea wrong in my head. I don’t need to try to drum up more love in my heart in order to obey, I need to obey and the love will be there.

One of the things that living the life of an Orthodox Christian has meant is obedience. I made a decision a few years ago to submit myself to the teachings of the Church instead of trying to figure them all out first. That was the best decision I have ever made. As I have endeavored to be in obedience to Christ, His Church (her Traditions, teachings and “praxis”), the Bishop and Priest, and indeed my brothers and sisters in Christ as well, I have noticed that the love for all those things continue to grow.What an amazing treasure, no better, what a key to unlock the treasures, is the key of obedience. Obviously the obedience is not blind, foolish and pharisaical, but it is done as unto the Lord.

I notice that in the areas of my life that are more prone to my pride and therefore disobedience, my love is cold. I pray that I am willing to be obedient in all things, as unto Christ, that His love may be perfected in me. As I purpose to do so, may I become less like a Jane Studdock and become more like Samwise The Brave!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 19, 2013 7:03 am

    A couple of points:
    1. Isn’t it sad and rather pathetic that many people have interpreted or rather perverted the relationship of Frodo and Sam into a homosexual one rather than an ideal example of brotherly love.
    2. I think obedience among Americans and most anyone living in this time is much harder to achieve. The American ideal is independent thought and action, mixed in with the more recent idea of
    non-judgmentalism and a “live and let live” credo. Obedience to any kind of traditional or orthodox philosophy and moral standards is going to meet resistance from the society around us and just as strongly from our own heart. I admire your honesty and commitment to living a Orthodox life. I feel strongly that people much more grounded in the Orthodox faith and life have gone before me – there is centuries of wisdom that have built up and if this is the mind of the Holy Orthodox Church I am willing to follow it – though I’m not always doing a very good job of it. Anyone who thinks that is weakness or just blind obedience (which by the way is an oxymoron – obedience requires an active, “seeing” consent to submit your will out of love to the will of another, i.e. God, the Church). If submitting yourself in obedience to the Church and its faith were done in blind obedience we wouldn’t need the sacrament of confession cause we’d all be perfect drones complying with the rules.

    • June 19, 2013 7:19 am

      That is very true. The obedience that our Orthodox Christian Faith calls us to is not a blind one by any means. I have come to learn much about myself as I have endeavored to be obedient to God in the Traditions of our faith. It sounds like you have experienced the same thing.

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