On Finding the Gate Barred Against You

The Black Gate is Closed


What road should we take when both are black? (Source)

Frequently in life we come to a difficult fork in our path.

On the one hand, there is the Black Gate: the path of resistance, the gate barred against us. It may be the shortest path, or the road decided upon when we set out, or the clearest way forward. Sometimes it was a worthy and wholesome path at one point, now corrupted and turned against us; sometimes it was a possibility from afar that upon closer inspection reveals it force against us. Our little hope turns to despair when we witness that road, that possible path.

On the other hand, there is Cirith Ungol: the secret path, the mysterious way. It is the road we did not expect, one unheard of or unimaginable to us until we have reached the path in the road. Compared to the Black Gate, here at least there may be a slim chance of success. Yet there is a danger on this road that is hidden from us, we experience a sinking feeling that we are approaching a trap or an unknown evil.

This is not an easy fork: between the Black Gate and Cirith Ungol there is no clear and obvious way of proceeding. No good option lays before us. How then should we decide which path to take?

We weigh the decision in our minds, combining wisdom with platitudes. We know simplicity is better than complexity: we know that it’s a slippery slope if we start taking detours from the shortest path to our goal. It is why we didn’t seek our Minas Tirith, why we broke the Fellowship in the first place. All the same, we also know that futility and hopelessness are no good to us: we recognize that the former path is the one expected for us to take, and that therefore the later road might give us the cover and time we need. Dangers lay before us each way: some known, some unknown. Courage will be needed on either path.

And so, how should we read this riddle? Perhaps, first, by recognizing the situation for what it is: that there are no good options, and we should not burden ourselves with the weight of making the right decision. No matter which road we take we should be tested, and all we are asked is we give the journey our all. We will make the decision as best we can, with the knowledge that we have: that knowledge may be incomplete, as it was with Frodo and Sam. We should not fault ourselves for choosing one of the dark paths forward, but instead be encouraged that we haven’t turned back from the mission.

Each choice will be different: each fork the road will need a new moment of reflection, of discernment, and of will. We may trust our own hearts or the advice of those that travel with us. Our victory rests not in ourselves but in things greater than ourselves, and when we find the gates of the Black Land barred against us, let us remember that such gates shall not prevail against us.

2016’s Reflection: “On Discernment
2015’s Reflection: “On Oliphaunts

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