On Being Already Weary

The Bridge of Khazad-dum

The dark fire shall not avail you, flame of Udun! (Source)

The dark fire shall not avail you, flame of Udun! (Source)

A Balrog: it always has to be a stinking Balrog. Far we travel and long we strive, and many obstacles we overcome: but in the end, there is always that last burden to bear, that last relationship to heal, that last evil to subdue, that last temptation to resist, a last which seems more potent and overwhelming than all which came before it. Whatever its nature, it seeks us out with the flames of urgency, or rage, or fear, or terror. Yet, like the Balrog, as we examine it the fires die into a greater darkness. At the core of every obstacle and burden is rooted the same brokenness, the same imperfection, that permeates the world.

And we are already weary. In its constant motion life erodes away our life, and the weight of the living wastes our humble frames. With every monster slayed, there seems to arise a far greater demon to face. With every sin stayed, there seems to arise a more sinister vice to resist. Especially in the reflective moments of Lent, we can view all the moments of our waking days as Pyrrhic victories. Exhausted before the force of a Balrog, we can fall so quickly into despair.

And yet: “I must hold the narrow way.” Like Gandalf, aroused from his faltering by the sound of the Horn of Gondor – a reminder of his charges and friends – we ultimately must turn against the Balrog that pursues us. For though we can flee through the halls and passageways of Moria at length, at last we all reach the Bridge of Khazad-dum, the last crossing between that which we loathe and that which we love. Those who have suffered great addiction or temptations – alcoholism, abuse, power – know all too well: there comes a moment, even in weariness, where one must stand firm. It is a turning point, a defining moment, one that threatens to consume us and seemingly destroy us entirely. Nevertheless, the Balrog cannot not pass.

For the Balrogs of our life are keepers of a lesser fire than the flame that has been kindled in the heart of every man, and that fire shall not prevail over it. We, like Gandalf, are servants of a greater power, and the white fire of that power burns eternal without flicker. The white fire of unwearied love draws in others to offer aid in our combat. Even at a distance, there will be those who cry “He cannot stand alone” or “I am with you.” In that hour of weariness, they may not be the people we expect. Frodo does not leap to Gandalf’s aid; Boromir does. The apostles abandoned Christ upon the cross: yet Simon was there, and Veronica.

And ultimately, a sacrifice may have to be made: we may have to lose something, as Gandalf did, in order to save something else. The sacrifice may be great or small, and through it our burdens may consume us or seemingly destroy us entirely. Nevertheless, in the sacrifice of white fire, the Balrog cannot pass. The bridge shall be held: love shall prevail.

In being already weary, we may not have the strength to recall these musing. In being already weary, we see in a stinking Balrog an evil fortune. Yet, in the white light of the secret fire, there is recalled firmness and brave solidarity. In holding the Bridge of Khazad-dum being already weary, we break ourselves to mend the brokenness that shall not proceed.

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