The Birth of Adventure

Over the past few years, I have explored many new worlds through fiction, poetry, and my own special brand of doubt.  My personal library has more than tripled in size, and I copy long, important passages from beloved books into my journals to capture the beauty of perfectly-turned phrases.  But I must place credit where credit is due: this personal revolution was launched by movies.

It was October 2011, and I was in Colorado with others who were, like me, planning to spend a significant amount of time overseas as missionaries.  My five weeks did not get off to a stellar start: my plane sat on the tarmac in my home city for over two hours before finally taxiing to the runway, and I subsequently missed my connecting flight AND all the introductions as the training got underway.  When I entered the classroom the next morning, everybody else already knew each other – and that only served to feed my already-heightened introvert sense of intimidation.  The first two weeks passed in a blur – mostly of watching my mouth in a mirror as I attempted to form sounds completely foreign to one born and raised with American English.  Not everyone who attended the first two weeks would be staying on for the last three, so after goodbyes, the 15 of us remaining found ourselves looking at each other with a whole weekend of uninterrupted “bonding” ahead of us.

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After lunch, a walk to the lake, and a trip to Walmart, we decided on a group activity: a movie marathon.  But not just any movie marathon.  We had three nights before the newbies arrived for the next phase of our training, so a series of three made sense.  And so it was that The Lord of the Rings entered my life.

I always remembered my dad saying he’d had nightmares after reading The Lord of the Rings, and that was all the explanation given for why J. R. R. Tolkien was not even permitted in the house.  Since the rest of my companions had already seen the movies – multiple times – they kindly agreed to tell me when it would be wise to cover my eyes.  Looking back, I see just how much love and grace went into that movie marathon.  I see how I must have looked to my friends: I was frightened of my own shadow, finding demons where none existed, and fearful that I might forfeit my soul to the occult by watching the wrong movie.

How little I knew of grace.

But in a show of amazing love, not only did we watch all three movies together, but my dear friends managed to watch without giving away what was going to happen!  They let me experience The Lord of the Rings with brand-new eyes.  They laughed with me, cried with me, and rejoiced with me as I experienced a true eucatastrophe.

I found hope.  I found grace.  I met the Real Jesus in The Lord of the Rings.

It would be another six months before I managed to read the complete Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but since then I have not stopped reading Tolkien’s work, each time finding anew the promises of life beyond hope, victory against all odds, and the joy of good triumphing over evil.  I became a fan overnight, and the deeper I delve into Middle-earth, the more Truth I find to sustain me through dark nights and grey days.  The power of story literally changed my life.

 

On Becoming a Rebel [II]

[…continued from part I…]

I did not intend to become a rebel that day.

It was summertime, and I wanted a book to enjoy in the spare moments I found between responsibilities.  I remember sitting at a picnic table in the shade at our swim club, oblivious to life around me.  I stumbled upon Faërie for the very first time, but had no words to describe what was happening to me.  Though I had “escaped” into books before, nothing came close to the magic I felt as I read The Blue Castle.  I had discovered a new world.

Perhaps it was simply because I had never found words that bared my soul before.  And piercing words I found in abundance.  From the very first page, I knew Valency and I were kindred spirits.  Though she lived within a book and my existence involved more oxygen, I could see the world through her eyes – because they were like mine.  I had never met a heroine as honest as she.

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The first chapter of The Blue Castle was saturated with experiences I thought were unique to my life.  It was as though L. M. Montgomery had a window into my being and had simply changed a few details to protect my identity.  Her name was Valency, not Susanna. She was 29, not 15.  She had no siblings, whereas I had more than a handful.  But both Valency and I felt we had the same lot in life: an insignificant existence in which the primary ruling factor was fear of offending someone in authority.  I never dreamed I would someday be, as Valency was, “twenty-nine and unsought by any man.”  Yet I shared her tears then as I do now.

With Valency’s transformation, however, I met someone who found the freedom to be herself – and found love and meaning and purpose in the process.

And I wondered if freedom might be possible for me, too, someday.

I could easily relate to Valency’s hopelessness; her thwarted desire to enjoy a good book or simply be alone with her thoughts.  I understand, now more than ever, the longing she had to be desired, loved, and cherished, yet autonomous and purposeful in and of herself.  I felt her heart’s cry, for it was mine.  It is mine.

Though I was only fifteen and could not hope to foretell the future, I did hope that my future would be akin to Valency’s.  So though The Blue Castle was quickly black-listed and I was forbidden to read it, the memory of that hope stayed with me through the years.  When I rediscovered the enchantment of Valency’s story ten years later, it was in the throes of discovering true freedom for myself.  The rebellion had come full circle.  I will never stop reading her story.  I can never stop living mine.