My brother asked me recently why I tend to wear a particular bracelet all the time. It’s a dark navy cuff with silver symbols on it—it’s beautiful and unique in its own right. But it’s also special for another reason. I got it on our family’s once-in-a-lifetime trip to New Zealand last summer. And it is a constant reminder to me of the need for gratitude.
As a little background: Jeff, me, and the kids are all huge Lord of the Rings fans (don’t test me, I can quote lines from the book and reference what page it’s on!). Since the movies were filmed in New Zealand, we were beyond giddy when we got a speaking engagement on that side of the world and turned it into a family trip. We toured the farm that became Hobbiton and took tons of pics at the hobbit holes (our petite 5’ daughter enjoyed the ‘scaled’ hobbit doors that made her look like a giant!), and stared in awe at the mountains. (In real life, when not surrounded by menacing CG clouds and lightning, Mount Doom is actually stunningly beautiful.) But best of all, we toured the WETA studios workshop in Wellington to examine all the movie props and hear all the behind the scenes stories—and that’s where I found this bracelet.
When I look at it on my arm, two things always happen. I first feel a surge of gratitude for being able to take such a special trip with our family—especially right before our oldest was finishing up high school and heading off to college.
But on a much deeper level, I am reminded that God has a plan for our lives and even in desperately hard times – like what our family has gone through this year with my dad’s stroke — God is in control. Those who have seen the LOTR movies will recognize the pattern on this cuff as that of the White Tree: the symbol of the humble True King who, in the end, defeats the dark power menacing Middle Earth and takes his rightful place on the throne. And yet here’s what gets me: the defeat of the dark power is also due to two ordinary hobbits who bravely step forward and endure immense hardship to carry out their part of the great Plan. For Jeff and me, one of our favorite scenes in The Return of the King comes when the two hobbits stop for the night as they are sneaking through the dark land toward Mount Doom; exhausted, in pain, hungry and being tracked. Frodo’s best friend, Sam, is staying up to keep watch. The dark clouds surrounding them are nearly overwhelming. But then . . .
There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King—on page 220 in OUR book!)
Friends, the same is true in our world. Things can be hard. We are living in a world in which darkness has so much dominion. Where illness takes those we love. Where division is spreading. That is why we need a reminder that in the end the Shadow is only a small and passing thing. That there is a purpose and power and high beauty forever beyond its reach; forever at work beyond what we can often see.
The end of the story is a good one. Every time I look at the bracelet on my wrist, it reminds me of the most important reason for gratitude: that even when things seem dark, God is there. He has a purpose and we are a part of it. The darkness is not the end of the story.
Happy Thanksgiving, friends. Wishing you a moment or two to stop and look up. And see hope.
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Shaunti Feldhahn loves sharing eye-opening information that helps people thrive in life and relationships. She herself started out with a Harvard graduate degree and Wall Street credentials but no clue about life. After an unexpected shift into relationship research for average people like her, she now is a popular speaker and author of best-selling books about men, women and relationships. (Including For Women Only, For Men Only, and the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage).
Her latest book, Find Rest: A Women’s Devotional for Lasting Peace in Busy Life, focuses on a journey to rest even with life’s constant demands.
Visit www.shaunti.com for more.