His name comes from an Old English word meaning “wise by experience.” But it’s pretty clear that if he had been given a choice in the matter, that the little guy would probably have preferred to pass on many of the experiences which came his way. After all, he never even wanted to leave his comfortable shire and travel across those Misty Mountains and dark forests in the first place. And after being pursued by Black Riders, waylaid by enchanted trees, stabbed with a Morgul blade, and then attacked by an army of Orcs, all while on an impossible quest to destroy the powerful “One ring to them all,” it’s understandable why for all of his courage and selflessness, the hobbit was just about overwhelmed by his circumstances.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” says Frodo despondently to the wizard who has guided him in his journey.
To which Gandalf replies, “So do I, and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
And it would seem that no less than those described by J.R.R. Tolkein in his classic work, The Fellowship of the Rings, the times that have been given to us right now are complex and challenging ones as well. Even as we start a new month, in fact, we do so knowing that the social distancing guidelines and restrictions on normal life will continue until the very end of April. For the numbers of those impacted by the pandemic have not yet even reached their apex.
Beyond the incalculable loss of those who will become sick and even die from the virus now upon us, however, are also the backstories of individuals whose futures have otherwise been irretrievably altered too… of high school and college seniors robbed of a final semester… of athletes deferred from championships and chances to shine… of weddings postponed and even funerals delayed… and of a myriad of other changes that no one could ever have foreseen when the year began just three months ago.
Through it all, though, there is yet the voice of the One who has “Ever Been and Ever Shall Be,” who exists beyond the dimension of time because it too is His very creation. And He has promised not only never to leave or forsake us, but to one day make all things right, even wiping every tear from our eyes (Revelation 21.4).
The reality that is now sinking upon us like a coastal fog is that we can’t change the times that have been given to us anymore than Frodo could. But as Gandalf reminded his friend, we can decide what to do with the time that is before us, to lose it in grumbling and resentment, or to redeem it–literally in Ephesians 5, to “buy it up”– for our good and for the good of others.
Nobody chose any of this, it’s true. But could it be that we were actually made for such times as these?