Yesterday my bud Steve Sukkau (the very first Geek of the Week here at bradhuebert.com) sent me a comment via email I need to share with you. Here I am turning Favourite Movie Moment #3 over to Stevo.
I am loving movie week!
Most of my personal favourite movie moments come from the Lord of the Rings, but if I had to choose one it would have to be from Return of the King.
The enemy has breached the gates of the white city, and even now are just outside throwing themselves against the seventh and final barrier. The defences have failed, the king of Rohan lies dying on the battlefield below, the steward of Gondor has thrown himself off the citadel and the true king Aragon is nowhere to be found. Frodo lies captive in a dark tower of Mordor and Sam has claimed the ring for himself.
And the story cuts to the emotionally and physically depleted Pippin, who sits with a haggard and blood stained Gandalf. In a moment of calm certainty, as the enemy works tirelessly to bring down the final gate, Pippin speaks to Gandalf about their coming deaths.
Pippin: I didn’t think it would end this way.
Gandalf: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path… One that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass… And then you see it.
Pippin: What? Gandalf?… See what?
Gandalf: White shores… and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.
Pippin: [smiling] Well, that isn’t so bad.
Gandalf: [softly] No… No it isn’t.
I was watching an old BBC interview with Tolkien, and at one point the interviewer asks the wisened old writer of the Lord of the Rings, if he can sum up the story.
I think Tolkien, smoking a pipe and with an ale close at hand, gives a grunt and says something about the difficulty and unsatisfactory nature a few sentences have in summing up such a large story. But then, he seems to think better of it, and answers simply that his story is about death.
He proceeds to pull a carefully folded up newspaper clipping to read a quote from Simone de Beauvoir, and begins to read it in his infamous crisp and precise articulation for the camera.
“There’s no such thing as a natural death. Nothing that happens to man is ever natural. His presence calls the whole world into question. All men must die: but for every man his death is an accident and, even if he knows it and consents to it, an unjustifiable violation.”
I love this moment between Gandalf and Pippin in the Return of the King. You forget sometimes, when Gandalf is especially tired or defeated, that he is a powerful being from far beyond this world. In this moment, Pippin looks at their situation and justifiably pronounces they’re at the end of the road, at least from his perspective.
I wonder how many times Jesus pulled this similar firm, but loving rebuke. His friend had died, the wine was gone, there were too many people to feed, the kingdom his followers longed for wasn’t coming, or his disciples were faced with Jesus’ own death.
“End? No the journey doesn’t end here.”
The disciples, like Pippin, have been fighting the good fight, but their perspective is off. How often are we thinking of life in human, natural terms, and overlooking, even forgetting, the nature of our fight, our identity in God, and even the nature of God himself.
How often am I dejected with God when the car breaks down, as if He has abandoned me to the hardships of this life, or promise to quit teaching sunday school next year when my brilliant lessons are met with blank stares and dismal attendance. Or how often do I give up when I feel like a relationship at work has become irreparably damaged? These moments begin to reveal just how wrong my thinking has become, how we’ve been trying to make life work on our own terms and within narrow views of God and his values.
But when reminded of the true perspective, Pippin is able to steel himself for the coming fight. The Rohan armies below have given Aragorn time to return with an unstoppable force, Sam’s momentary selfishness has saved the ring from falling to enemy hands, and their sacrifices have allowed Frodo the opportunity to destroy the ring and Sauron forever.
What a difference a little perspective makes.
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