Little Frodo Baggins leaves home to take an awesome power, a frightful tool of deception and doom, away from his home. He travels further than he could have dreamed, over coming many obstacles, showing that a true heart, a good heart, can turn a tiny person into a giant. And when he returns, he finds he is forever changed.
Dorothy looks wistfully at the sky, and complains about her dreary life where all is plain, ordinary, and no one understands her. She dreams of going somewhere beautiful, magical. And when she is suddenly transported there she begins a journey that makes her realize the best things in her life are the things she was running from. She comes home grateful for family and friends.
The old man sets out from his home, to go fishing. And he catches a fish. A great fish. In this tale filled with religious metaphors the old man battles the fish, sharks, the elements, and returns with nothing to show for his ordeal but the bones of the animal. He goes out an ordinary man and returns larger than life, a living legend.
Cycles are a natural way for people to think. We fill our lives with cycles. There are the cycles of our days. Going out to earn our livelihood, and returning to rest each night. The weekly cycle is the same... going out to work, receiving our rest at each week’s end. The moon spins through her cycles, waxing and waning, giving pulses and rhythm to our lives (largely ignored by cultures that no longer pay attention to the natural lights of the sky). The year swings around and around, leaving changes on and in our bodies. We go through the cycle of birth and death making our mortal existence a single generational pulse of humanity’s heart.
The Romans used iron. They were good at it. They were iron-like people.
Iron is fairly easy to work, is rather plentiful, and can hold an edge better than the copper and bronze used by previous cultures.
On Jesus’ last mortal day on Earth iron took part in His sacrifice. The soldiers wore swords made of iron at their waists, an apt symbol of their power. The whips which tore across His back were tipped with iron. The nails driven through his wrists were hammered to sharp points on a Roman anvil. Finally, the spear thrust into His side was iron-tipped.
To make their weapons and tools stronger the Romans turned the iron into steel. They did that by forge welding. They heated the ore and pounded the impurities out of it. They beat the metal into long bars, heating them to an even yellow glow, sprinkling them with borax, folded them over, and with just the right amount of pounding, hammered them, welded them, together. They repeated the process, over and over, until the carbon was spread throughout the steel, making it harder, stronger, more resilient.
I imagine that when a sword was damaged, bent, the soldier took the weapon to the smith to be pounded straight. I also imagine that though it would look straight, the warrior would be keenly aware of that spot, perhaps still able to feel where it was bent and pounded on the anvil.
I have sometimes felt that I have been placed on an anvil and beaten straight again. There was the death of Willy. When I think back to that terrible day it is like running my fingers over a spot where I was severely bent. But the Lord pounded me smooth again. Still, I can touch that place and feel the place where my soul was tested... where I was placed in a fire and pounded by life and the sure hand of my maker.
One year ago today I was sitting in a meeting at my church and the fire alarm went off. One year ago from this exact moment, as I type these words. That alarm was the first sign that my life was being placed once again in a fire... a fire lit by my son as he played with a candle in a stairwell.
Earth has swung once more around the sun, another cycle has been completed. 30,000 people have looked over my shoulder to glance at these words that have crawled across my screen, dancing to the tapping of these keys beneath my fingers. 80,000 words have marched across virtual pages glowing from this flat screen, this window I have placed in my life for others to peek through, into my little online journal.
This cycle has carried me out from my home, and in the journey I have changed once again.
How have I changed? A certain tenseness flexes with my chest at the thought of that evening one year ago. But I look at my son, out in the yard picking cherries with my wife, so eager to please... I know the goodness in his heart. And I know the challenges he has faced and the darkness that chases after him.
And I think it is all worth it.
There have been and will continue to be sacrifices in this life. But I would not choose another.
Because the smith who created me, who beat me into this particular shape, and restores my ability to function when I am too bent to continue, is trustworthy. He restores me... restores me.
And I am willing to be put to any service He desires.