"You are well aware that since the advent of Jesus Christ the world has seen Three Great Fellowships. The First was the table of Jesus Christ, where the apostles broke bread on many ocassions...thereafter was instituted another table in memory and in likeness of the first. This was the table of the Holy Grail...that table was suceeded by the Round Table: for from every land where chivalry resides, knights are seen flocking to the Round Table. And when by God's grace they are made companions, they count themselves richer than if they had gained the whole world..."
(The Quest of the Holy Grail, 13th century)
The way it was meant to be.
Not as another religious duty. Not even as a matter of mere survival.
Not because you should.
Not even because you must.
(Although for most of us, even this is the eye-opening step that we have long needed to take. To move from the churchy "I should" to the Epic "I'm dead if I don't" is a great step indeed - a step we will certainly take when we begin to see the world from a epic perspective).
As we said, it's a big step, and already much is beginning to shift. Using our Epic Imagination, we are able to perceive our true situation in a way that we haven't ever quite received from the pulpit or the pew. Something BIG is happening here, and we've been thrown smack into the middle of it. Surprisingly to a dyed-in-the-wool individualist, it turns out that we don't have much of a prayer of surviving against the firepower that's been marshaled against us if we try to take on the kingdom of darkness alone.
Granted, if your version of the Christian life is still about 'hunkering down' and minding your own business, then it may be that the life you have set for yourself IS something you can handle alone. "Who me? Take on the kingdom of darkness? Why would I want to do a silly thing like that? Isn't that God's job anyway? Besides, things are just beginning to 'settle down' in my life! It's all finally beginning to come together for me. Can't I just be happy about that? I'm no fool: I'm not about to paint a bulls-eye on my chest! Me? Pick a fight with the devil? And risk messing up all of this?"
Thankfully, those of us who are treading the Warrior's Path have begun to awaken from that deadly enchantment, that heart-breaking bad dream in which we are destined to live insignificant lives in the midst of a meaningless and story-less universe.
Instead we are coming to see that we truly are embroiled in something deeply significant, and the opposition to our discovering a full life of purpose and joy is heavier than we can even put into words. To borrow one of Eldredge's favorite historical examples, our lives feel for all the world like God's promises and the fullfillment of our heart's deepest desires are right there before us waiting for us to grasp them...only it's D-Day and all the might of Europe's fiercest war machine stands between us and the "day at the beach" we were hoping for.
And so it is that the religious appeal to pursuing "fellowship" as an act of obedience now turns into something much more elemental, vital, a matter of survival.
Just look back through the ages: in Romantic, historical, and fictional example after example we learn again and again that it will only be in fellowship that good will overcome evil...
Arthur has his Knights -
heroes one and all, but more eager to hold second-billing in a company of great warriors than to be a Prince alone in some distant land..
Robin has Little John, Will Scarlet, Allen A'Dale -
a small band of merry men who would rather be outlaws with Robin than free men making their way in the world alone.
William Wallace has his oldest friend Seamus, a half-crazed but loyal Irishman named Stephen, and a handful of Highlanders -
ready to follow their friend on the most hopeless of adventures.
D'Artagnan has Athos, Porthos, and Aramis -
and when the Three Musketeers become Four, all of European history is changed by their acts of loyalty and heroism.
Frodo has Sam and 7 others that comprise the Fellowship of the Ring -
nine unlikely souls brought together as the world's last hope against the gathering darkness in the East of Middle Earth.
And what of Jesus?
He has 12 that he calls out of the crowd to "be with him" through all the ups and downs of three years of public ministry....and tradition tells us that all but one of them suffered and died a martyr's death as a result of that fellowship.
All these stories - and countless others - that grip you with a longing to share in something similar - they are telling you something about yourself. About how you were designed. About what makes you come alive. About God's plan for how life ought to be.
"And when by God's grace they are made companions, they count themselves richer than if they had gained the whole world...You have seen this happen in your own particular case. From the day you left your mother and were made a companion of the Round Table, you had no wish to go back, but fell at once captive to the sweet intimacy and brotherly love that binds its members."
(The Quest of the Holy Grail)
Here then, is the final step, the one we are all to some degree needing to yet take - from religious duty, to vital neccesity, to last of all: the desire of our heart.
We walk in sweet companionship and brotherhood because this is Life at its best.
Honestly: if it were somehow possible for you to receive an invitation to join any of the fellowships listed above, would anything in the world hold you back? A seat at the Table Round? A King's Musketeer and entree into the inner circle of binding brotherhood of Athos and the other noble souls? Handpicked to walk, eat, sleep, heal, study, laugh and cry with the Son of God and his closest friends?
.If a longing and an ache for such a sweet fellowship isn't rising in your chest at this very minute, then either we have not communicated well enough, or you simply aren't really listening to your heart.
The church says you ought to have this.
The days of our lives tell us we need to have this.
Our hearts (if we dare to listen) tell us we long to have this.
.And what does God say? In Waking the Dead, Eldredge tells of his pilgrimmage to the ruins of an ancient community of Celtic warrior-monks who helped to keep Britian a Christian nation during the Dark Ages. Standing there amongst the wind-worn stones between the northern sky and the crashing sea, he thought he heard in the deep places of his heart God saying these words:
"I'm doing this again."
May your heart be alive, your eyes on the horizon, and your bags packed when He does begin to do this again. You might only have one shot at this.
You aren't going to want to miss it.