I find great value in interaction with myth. To me, a myth (a story which is not factually accurate but concerns archetypal ideas) contains truth which can sometimes be truer than true. It encodes, so to speak, ideas that are on the human psyche and presents them in abstracted and easy-to-grasp ways.
When we pay attention to these myths - when we discuss them and consider them – we can usually tease out rich information and ideas that lead to different views on the world.
The modern myth
In modern times, we don’t tend to sit around campfires and share myths with each other… We sit in the movie theatre. We borrow books and watch TV shows and discuss together the ideas we have learned. If we’ve a head on our shoulders, more is said than “It was so cool when Iron Man punched Hulk!”. Richness of ideas is found when we discuss. When we bring our own ideas and thoughts and see what the story ‘has to say’ about them.
One such story I constantly dwell on is The Lord of the Rings. I have read a lot of the books, watched and re-watched the films, and listened to the music of my own volition. The more I think about the story – explore, dissect, discuss, appreciate – the more ideas I discover.
Recently I prayed. As I sat and talked to God, I asked something along the lines of ‘God, help me to be stronger’. As I said it, I was taken back a moment; God has already made me, and the person I am is strong. An overwhelming amount of the time I use this strength for good and it’s only when I fail that I pray God give more to me.
When we fail
You might be wondering where The Lord of the Rings comes into all this. When I took my moment during prayer, I was considering an idea in Romans “But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans chapter 5, verse 20, New Revised Standard Version).
It seems as if sin is a fact of the human condition. Even our Biblical heroes (bar Jesus, obviously) constantly made mistakes and ‘missed the mark’ and it doesn’t seem obvious to me that we could achieve better. And yet, constantly throughout the Word, grace abounds.
I have always been struck by the subversive nature of The Lord of the Rings; Frodo fails to destroy the ring and overcome the corruption within himself (spoiler alert); In the end, he gives in and embraces the evil he has tried so hard to resist. Simply put, he was not strong enough when it counted most.
And yet, in the final moments of the story, Frodo is allowed by Eru (Tolkien’s God analogue) to pass onwards into the undying lands (heaven). Frodo is not judged for his failure when he was at his weakest, but rather the grace of the creator covers the mistake with mercy.
Covered but not complacent
I am not getting at the long-debated idea of ‘once saved, always saved’ here. I am simply putting forward an idea; we should just do our best. Frodo did a terrific job; he carried the ring, fought against countless enemies, took on burdens that were unasked of him, and suffered wounds greater than anyone else in the story. And yet, had he been judged simply by the moment where he stood over the fires of Mount Doom and declared “The Ring is mine.” then a sorry state we would all be left in.
We constantly fail, when it matters and not, but I believe the greatest failure we can make is complacency. The idea that we’ve done enough, that we’ve done a good job, and we don’t need to try anymore. We still need to try. We still need to actively work towards the Kingdom of God.
However, when we fail, when we slip up, when we miss the mark, the best we can do is learn from our mistake and keep doing our best. Repentance does not mean sitting down and beating ourselves up, rather it is a verb; it is a change in direction.
So next time you fail, try not to take it too hard on yourself. Rather, reflect on your failure, move towards acceptance, and see what you can do to make things better. Don’t decide that God’s fury has been unleashed and you can no longer walk as His child, but remember that God’s grace abounds and covers your failures “…where sin increased, grace abounded all the more”.
Josiah Gray lives in Logan City, Australia. He is currently studying teaching at Christian Heritage College and is committed to telling the story of Jesus to the next generation. Josiah’s previous articles may be viewed at: https://www.pressserviceinternational.org/josiah-gray.html