A powerful scene in the Lord of the Rings is a wonderful metaphor for fatherhood. Frodo, the insecure and lowly hobbit of the Shire, is given a colossal task – take the Ring of Power into Mordor and destroy it. He is shown in vision the terrible destruction that awaits the world should he fail in his quest. The elf queen, Galadriel, is there with Frodo. After this terrifying vision, rather than softening the blow, she tells him, “This is your burden to bear, if you do not find a way, no one will.” With this harsh and necessary perspective, this imperfect hobbit goes out into the dark world. He overcomes great obstacles. After much tribulation, he climbs the stairs into Mordor. He is spurred on by the knowledge that the future of mankind rests in his hands and his hands alone. He is indispensable.
Every young father is Frodo.
He is unsure of his ability to perform the difficult task asked of him. He is weak, inexperienced, and immature. Like Frodo, he prefers beer to responsibility. Yet if he fails in his task, the world suffers.
Watch Frodo as he discovers the urgency of his quest.
You can see the feelings of inadequacy in his countenance. He looks to the elf queen, “You are wise and fearless and fair, Lady Galadriel, I will give you the One Ring, if you ask for it. It is too great a matter for me”.
I have seen this look before, I remember it well. It was the same look my husband had in a hospital in Hawaii, as he was handed our shrieking first-born son. I was bed-bound due to my C-section. My 24-year-old husband was left to scale the cliffs of parenthood largely alone.
He tried to hand our son off to the nearest nurse. She wisely left the room – he would have to figure it out.
Frodo made many mistakes. He trusted the untrustworthy and for a moment he even gave into the power of the ring. But, through God’s grace and the assistance of others, he made it. He was the man for the task. An imperfect but willing young father is also the man for the task. The Frodos of Fatherhood are heroes despite their imperfections. They do not shirk from their duty. As they carry the burden, they grow stronger under its weight.
The man that embarks on the adventure of fatherhood will not emerge the same man. “There is no real going back”. He will gather scars along the way. He will learn what he is made of. The future of our world truly does depend on the everyday man, or hobbit, taking his child in his hands and bearing that precious burden.
My husband is a different man now than that young man unsure of himself in a hospital room. Now 13 years and 4 kids later, he doesn’t fear the duties of fatherhood but carries his burden well. Like Frodo, his journey of Fatherhood has included tribulation and overcoming obstacles. Yet Frodo seems deeply traumatized by his experience with evil, for his burden was a wicked one and grew heavier. Yet as Fathers carry the righteous burden of their own precious children – it does not grow heavier, but lighter. Looking back, I love that brave 24-year-old man that tried to pass off our son to the nearest nurse, but he was a smaller version of the mighty man we have today. He now has a greater capacity for hardship, self-sacrifice, empathy, and spiritual discernment. Fatherhood, for him, has been primarily a journey of joy and laughter. We, his family, see him for the Hero he is.
Happy Father’s Day to all our Heroic Dads.