The Time That Is Given Us
In The Fellowship of the Rings, J.R. R. Tolkien writes about a feeling that I think many of us share just now. Frodo realizes that he has the burden of bearing the ring of power in a particularly dark time in the world and he tells his friend and mentor, Gandalf: “I wish it need not have happened in my time.” “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such time. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Tolkien lived through many dark times. He fought in the First World War and lost many of his closest friends. He also lived through the “ darkest hour” of the Second World War, 1940-41, when England stood virtually alone against the forces of Germany.
Deciding “…what to do with the time that is given us,” is a theme that resonates throughout Scripture. The books of Ruth and Esther, Psalms 23, 42 & 43 are examples from the Old Testament. Jesus repeatedly teaches us to use our time in the service of God’s kingdom, no matter the circumstances, in parables such as the vineyard laborers who are invited to work in every hour, the parable of the talents, and the dishonest steward.
This theme is present in a poem that was sent to me earlier this week, written by an Irish priest, Brother Richard Hendric:
…They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise, you can hear the birds again.
The sky is no longer thick with fumes but blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi people are singing to each other
across the empty squares, keeping their windows open so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighborhood so that the elders may have someone to call on….
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbors in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are, to how little control we really have
and to what really matters: Love.
So we pray and we remember that yes, there is fear, but there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation, but there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying, but there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness, but there does not have to be disease of the soul.
Yes there is even death, but there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now…
Open the windows of your soul and though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square, sing.
March 13, 2020
Let us make the most of this time we have been given. Perhaps we—like Esther—are here “for just such a time as this.”