From the Ashes

The battle of Helm's Deep is over. (sorry - you might need to read our last post, RIDE, to catch up!)

Against all odds the world of Men has survived to see the sun rise on a golden morning after all, thanks in no small part to the heroic ride of King Theoden and the last surviving Captains and Lords of the house of Eorl - the ride, as you'll remember, that wouldn't have happened if not for Aragorn's strength of heart, his courage, and his willingness to call the King out of his passivity and despair. Fast forward several days to another scene: the mustering of all the armies of Rohan at the ancient refuge and gathering place of Dunharrow, as they prepare to march into the South and fight beside their beleagured neighbor in the kingdom of Gondor.

Although as king Theoden continues to rule his people, there is no question that Aragorn is the true hero of the Battle of Helm's Deep, and much of the hope and courage of the horse-warriors of Rohan is built upon the confidence his presence brings. Despite his gratefulness, Theoden is riddled with self-doubt and self-recrimination. Actually, the situation is quite similar to one found in the ancient writings of God's redemptive work in our own world, when Israel's first king found a young warrior far braver than himself, and the people greeted them after their victories with shouts of: "Saul has killed his thousands, but David has killed his tens of thousands!"

But then suddenly, inexplicably, an unforeseen blow to the might of Rohan: Aragorn deserts his new brothers-in-arms. In their great moment of need, the Sword that was Broken must choose a different, darker path - one that the armies of Rohan cannot follow.

How will the King respond? Hasn't he been living vicariously off the courage of someone else ever since Gandalf arrived at Edoras with his rag-tag companions and released him from Saruman's power?

As Aargorn disappears into the mists that shroud the entrance to the Paths of the Dead, Theoden's men turn to their King with questioning, doubting eyes.

"Too few have come," his Captain says, referring to the armies gathered or conscripted from the far corners of land. "We cannot defeat the armies of Mordor."

Defeat drips from his voice, and all the men witnessing the confrontation nod in agreement. For one breathless moment Theoden freezes. The fates of two kingdoms hang on his next words.

"No. We cannot."

The King sighs in agreement at last. In his heart no doubt he hears the echo of his own words to Aragorn at the moment of his despair at Helm's Deep: "What can Man do against such reckless hate?" It's going to be the same story all over again.

Relieved that their King has accepted the bitter truth of their plight, Theoden's men look up with new hope in their countenance. This war is far away in Gondor. Surely this hopeless quest can be averted, at least for a time?

And then...

..a fire begins to smoulder beneath the King's bristling brows.

"No. We cannot. But we shall meet them in battle nonetheless!" 

Yes. The circle is complete. The self-doubting Victim has chosen to play the role of Valiant. There are no words for retreat or surrender left in the King's lexicon.

His mind his made, his course set: as extreme as his past passivity so now will be the fame of his boldness and courage.

Oh, the restoring power of one brave heart upon another! The armies of Rohan no longer need to look to the courage of Aragorn to lead them. His example at Helm's Deep has done more than save Roahn: it has awakened the heart of the King. Now at last shall all witness the great leader, the mighty warrior, the true son of Kings that Theoden was always born to be.

Brothers and sisters, a Warrior's role is to be strong for others, to fight for those who cannot yet fight for themselves, to bring victory into situations that otherwise would have turned to defeat.

But along the way the Warrior must always be looking for those who have all the latent strength and courage to stand as great Warrior's in this battle against darkness in their own right -- always looking for great potential smouldering just beneath the surface, waiting to be fanned into new flame.

You can count on the fact that there is someone you know - and whom you see as a "victim", caught in a circle of self-doubt and passivity - who was meant to do great things for God and for His Kingdom.

Don't assume that they were born to play a lesser role.

None of us were.


From the ashes a Fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring...”
— J.R.R. Tolkien
And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds...”
— Hebrews 10:24