What a paradox!
Darkness intrigues us, but also repels us. Darkness fascinates us and stirs up fear.
We meet darkness as young children with trepidation because our eyes cannot glimpse our parents. At those young ages, what we cannot see does not exist for us so we fear our safe place with safe people has evaporated. As we get a little older, flashlight tag and chasing fireflies on starry summer nights delight us. A bit later still, we risk riding roller coasters in the dark at Disney World and screech as we watch a Halloween movie.
When we open the book of Genesis, we see darkness, an inky blackness, at the outset and learn God separates or makes a clear distinction between darkness and light. Reading further we recognize God’s enemy has many names including “The Prince of Darkness”.
Nothing gives me more of a sense of what such an enemy looks like perhaps than the final scenes of The Fellowship of the Ring in The Lord of the Rings or the opening scenes of the sequel, The Two Towers.
The moviemaker presents a dark creature (Balrog) with some semblance of a man-shape made of shadow, fire, and flame that strikes terror into the company on the quest to destroy the evil ring of power.
Gandalf turns to face the enemy and stand his ground on the Bridge of Khazad-dum. He forcefully pounds his staff onto the bridge and says,
” You cannot pass. I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udun. Go back to the shadow! You cannot pass.”
We breathe a sigh of relief as he skillfully wars against the creature, but when he believes the enemy is defeated he turns his back on him to join the others. We gasp as Gandalf discovers his foe has whipped a fiery lash around him pulls him into the abyss.
The movie trilogy of Tolkien’s epic work is a favorite of mine. I confess we own the expanded version and I have watched the series more than a few times. Each time I discover another nugget of truth in the twists and turns of the allegorical tale.
Each time I learn more about the battle that not only rages on the screen, but also in the real world we all live in. Each time I realize again that I am small, the enemies of darkness are big, but God is bigger still.
The movie trilogy reminds me of a battle that is largely unseen by the naked eye but leaves evidence of its existence. The trilogy also reminds me that these foes will not be ultimately and finally defeated until our Lord returns. Yet because of the cross, each of us who call upon His name is empowered to join the fight and stand with Him.
One other message from The Lord of the Rings trilogy stands out as truth. The fellowship is tested at many junctures and begins to break apart. However, it is not the many battles and skirmishes with various creatures of darkness that begin to undo the fragile alliance between men, dwarves, and elves.
Rather an unseen foe defeats one and then another in the fellowship. The foe, unrecognized by each, comes from a place of darkness inside of them that allows a chink in the armor. That place of darkness hidden within them, recognized by the enemies outside of them, neutralizes and defeats them.
This truth played out on the screen sobers me with a clear message. To defeat the darkness outside, I must first defeat the darkness inside that hides in the corners unconfessed in shame and give the enemy no quarter or opportunity.