On the Simple Rewards of a Good Life

The Grey Havens

60-The Final Joy

The Final Joy (Source)

In the end, we are back to where we began: in the Shire, with Frodo and Sam. Much has transpired, many long journeys taken, and many transformations occurred in the roots of both land and people. Yet, ultimately, the hobbits’ desires has not changed from the that with which they set out, that which Bilbo wrote so long ago: peace, quiet, and good-tilled earth.

The Shire cares little for the great adventures and exciting news of the world, no matter how much terror it may have spared them. The fall of Saruman and the scouring of the Shire brings not about great political upheaval and reformist reordering, but a return (as best as possible) to old ways and structures. Frodo is held with little honor among his own people. Life goes on as it always has, with the brief period of occupation fleeting into memory.

And yet, these are the simple rewards of a life well-lived, the things we deep down most desire. Peace and quiet. A safe and bountiful home. Companionship and marriage. Family and community. Strawberries and cream. These are not the boundless riches of gold and jewels, nor the great glories and honors that might be worthily laid upon us. They are instead the very things that we have always wanted, even if we did not realize it. The transformation that comes from the Lenten journey to Mt. Doom is not the revelation of what matters, but how much it matters to us. Whatever our Shire be, we set out in life to save it, not because we are not sure if it is worth saving, but because we are not sure yet how much we are willing to sacrifice to save it.

For some, like Frodo, the costs will be great, and they will have to give and lose much so that the Shire may thrive and others may enjoy it. We may not be whole again until we cross the boundaries of this life into the next, and see with our own eyes what lies beyond the circles of this world. Nevertheless, we must not see Frodo’s rewards as any less than those of Sam’s, for both are good and simple. Whether we feel the air of the far green hills under a swift sunrise from the steps of Bag End or on the Shores of Valinor, nevertheless, we still feel it. Whether we dwell with Rosie in our humble gardens and take once more the road with Bilbo onto the white ships, nevertheless, we still have love. The rewards are simple to remind us not over think what we truly desire, and whether we begin to comprehend them now or must patiently await for the days to come, yet do they mend together our hearts cast asunder.

The ship sails for the horizon; the hobbit returns to his wife and child. Abruptly do we conclude here, for only here has the eucatastrophe achieved its finale. For here ends friendship, Fellowship, and all that we have embraced these Lenten days, and “I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.” Yet from such losses emerge lasting happiness, healing, and joy, whether with sea air on one’s face or Elanor on one’s lap. These the simple rewards of mercy, of service and of sacrifice; blessed are they worthy of such an honor.


2015’s Reflection: “On What Lies Beyond the Circles of This World

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