Above us, in us and at our feet

tree-leaf-canopy-1024x768I finally got to “The Hobbit 2” over the weekend. With a 12-month old at home, and for a nearly 3-hour movie, it was no easy feat.

My favourite scene in the movie features the movie’s chief protagonist and unlikely hero and hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, and a band of merry (and not so merry) dwarves stumbling about in the darkly enchanted forest of Mirkwood. Their minds have all begun to play tricks on them. They appear to be in a sleepy daze — or very drunk — and are hopelessly lost. Bilbo looks above for the light that will lead them out, and climbs to the top of a tall tree to find it. As he breaks through the canopy of leaves, he takes a deep breath, as if he has been drowning below. His head clears.

The contrast is stunning. While Mirkwood has been dense, sinister and dark, the view from above is of a rich tapestry of autumn leaves with butterflies bursting forth, a clear blue sky, sunshine and a view for many miles. Death versus life. The contrast in Bilbo’s expressions is striking too — while he formerly appeared dazed, frantic, lost and confused, he is now ecstatic, and can see immediately where they need to go.

It’s a beautiful moment, and like most people seeing the movie, I’m sure, I thought, Isn’t life just like that? Highs and lows, confusion and just moments of clarity.

And for me, more specifically, I thought, Isn’t my spiritual life just like that?

Much of my life, I spend like Bilbo, far from my beautiful, beloved shire (home) and stumbling about in the Mirkwood of a fallen world, and of my mind and imagination. It’s not all bad, by any means, but life can be a dazing, confusing, worrying experience a lot of the time too. Life can seem very dark. And for me, in all my busyness, my trips to the top of the canopy can be rare. But as I break through to the light above, it’s an experience I don’t forget quickly.

The truth is though, I rarely climb to the canopy. Instead, the light comes to me, like all of us — and illuminates my path if I will open my eyes to it. Sometimes it carries me to the top of the canopy. And finally, I can see the forest (and beyond) for the trees — even if but briefly.

Triune God didn’t stay remote and distant when humanity fell. Through Jesus, they came to us. Through Jesus, they became one of us and we, in him, one of them. Through Jesus, they remain with us and we, in him, with them. And though we humans can imagine that they could have chosen to remain distant, there was never a chance of it. The light coming to us was always the plan.

They say that the light of a star travelling across space can be billions of years old. The star itself can have burned out by the time the light reaches our world. It’s the same with Jesus. Humanity now and in past centuries has detected light that has been there since before the foundations of the world. It’s as if it were sent before we needed it.

Because it was. Because we always needed it. We were created to. They knew the cost.

And the source of this light will never burn out.

At another point in the movie, the good wizard Gandalf the Grey is fighting a formless dark force, the most evil Sauron, who claims, There is no light that can defeat darkness.

Tingles ran up and down my spine in that moment, as my soul throbbed with the recognition that this is a great lie. The reverse is true. There is no darkness that can defeat light. All humanity knows it. What do we love better than tales like these, where good battles evil? We all know how it’s supposed to end. Good wins. Love wins. Deep inside us, we know.

We know, because it’s happened already, even if we are almost completely unconscious of it. Good has won. Love has won. And our entire universe runs on it.

Triune God does not expect that we embark upon a dangerous, difficult quest to find them. There are no dragons (or orcs, goblins and monstrous, horrific spiders!) we must slay to prove ourselves. In the words of C. Baxter Kruger,

Someone ask me recently, “what is God doing in your life?” If you could have heard the way he said God, you would have known that his question was loaded. As soon as he asked it a feeling of inferiority swept through my heart. For I knew that he was asking me what supernatural, what grand and astonishing thing had God done in my life recently. And I knew that if I didn’t have a rather grandiose story to tell that my spirituality would be questioned. “Well,” I said, “He gave me a ruby red grapefruit, two daughters, a son, baseball, fishing lures, friends and a wife to dance with.”

Many Christians, in their proper pursuit of Zoe, spiritual life, leave behind their Bios, natural life, as if they can have the one without the other. 

If we separate the life of the Trinity from our humanity then we fall into a wholesale devaluing of the natural, the ordinary things of life. The dignity of our work vanishes. For what is managing a hardware store or running a bread route or making fishing lures compared to being a spiritual person in the pursuit of God?

When the life of the Trinity is separated from creation, our pursuit of spiritual life then leads us to discount ordinary things, to look over ordinary people and beyond ordinary events in our quest for God. While the great dance of the Trinity is not to be reduced to creation, we have no access to it without it.

The life of the Triune God permeates creation and it is within creation that we experience it.

Rest in the knowledge of who you already are, who those around you already are, and in what has already happened for all of us. For all people. The same light that is high above us is also in us and at our feet.

~ by Jeannine Buntrock

1 comment so far

  1. kuhlmancraig on


    Very rich illustration! Bravo! My boys loved the show, I feel like I should see it now, too.

    Looks like Tolkien and Lewis drank from the same stream. Sounded a lot like The Last Battle when the children experienced Narnia as heaven, while the dwarves experienced it as hell, all the while standing in the same place.

    Believing is everything!

    Have a great weekend, my dear,

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