We are, I believe, at an evolutionary tipping point. There is change, turbulence, and uncertainty all around.
So how are we to be in this time? As a collective, as well as individuals, we are called to recognize our one true power, Love, sourced in the infinite. Yet we must express infinite Love inside this finite, dualistic material world. We are grown by our interaction with this manifest world. We experience contrast and we choose, again and again, who and what and how we want to be. Shall we express fear or Love?
I am a big fan of The Lord of The Rings (LOTR). The psychological and spiritual lessons in the story may be helpful.
At the beginning of LOTR we see that each race has its own territory, culture, rules, beliefs, and antagonisms with other groups. Each group is quite self-absorbed. The unexpected “good guys” are the Hobbits. They are small in stature (called “Halflings”). They love to farm, eat, party, and are like children, ignorant of the rest of the world. It is discovered that Frodo, a hobbit, has received from his Uncle Bilbo the One Ring of Power. No one initially knew that it was the One Ring. But Gandalf, the wizard, figures it out and realizes the tremendous danger.
The One Ring is trying to return to its rightful owner, its maker, Sauron. Sauron is an evil being who hates all goodness and wants to rule Middle Earth through fear. From a spiritual standpoint, the One Ring is the worst of all possible temptations, seducing all who wear it, carry it, or are even near it. Frodo is, by “chance” now the reluctant Ring-bearer. He doesn’t feel he is up to the task. He tries to hand the Ring off to those he believes could handle it: Gandalf, the Elf Queen Galadriel, and a brave human warrior named Faramir.
All refuse, knowing that the One Ring would corrupt them. So Frodo is left to carry on, bringing the awful burden of the Ring to Mt Doom so that it may be thrown into the lava from whence it came and be destroyed. But he is not alone. Representatives from the good peoples of Middle Earth, the bravest warriors of Wizard, Elf, Dwarf, Human, and Hobbit, join together as the Fellowship of the Ring to bring an end to the threat.
How is Frodo to understand this responsibility? There is a clue in this interaction between Frodo and Gandalf. Frodo says, “I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.” Gandalf replies, “So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.”
Goodness is at work in the evolution of life in Middle Earth. Frodo will endure trials and have to do his part. It will be hard and it will not be guaranteed, at least in the material world. He must face his fears, and lean on others. And he must trust his inner wisdom. This becomes crucial when he shows mercy to Gollum, a previous owner of the Ring, who has been physically, emotionally, and spiritually corrupted by it. Gollum dogs their path. Gandalf senses that Gollum has a role to play in their mission so he alerts the others to Gollum’s presence and does not harm him. Frodo twice keeps Gollum from being harmed by others. And it is Gollum who saves the day at the last moment.
Frodo, with much help from his Fellowship and others, successfully protects the Ring from those who would take it from him. The final leg of the journey involves Gollum, who promises to guide Frodo, navigating marshes and volcanic wasteland, to Mount Doom. Towards the end Gollum fights with Frodo’s friend Sam and runs off. Sam and Frodo make it—thanks to Sam carrying Frodo the final way up the mountain, to the entrance of Mt Doom. When it is time to throw the Ring into the lava of Mt Doom, Frodo’s mind breaks. The Ring has overtaken him. The humblest of beings now is seduced by the Power of the One Ring. He cannot release it. He puts it on and becomes invisible to all except Sauron—who is now alerted to the mortal threat, but has no time to intervene.
It is at that moment that the “evil” being of Gollum, unwilling to allow the destruction of the Ring and desperate to own it again, jumps on the invisible Frodo and bites off Frodo’s finger to get the Ring. In the struggle Gollum both obtains the Ring and loses his balance—an interesting metaphor. Gollum falls into the lava with the Ring. Sauron is destroyed. Thus is Middle Earth saved.
Who saved Middle Earth? No one person did it. It was the Fellowship, plus lucky “’accidents,” plus an “evil” being named Gollum.
What Are You “for”?
To shift to the evolutionary language of Spiral Dynamics, the transition from first Tier to second Tier is upon us. Second Tier is marked by a huge reduction in fear. It is characterized by an expansion of our ability to interact with and nourish health in all the previous levels of the Spiral. We must join hands with unlikely allies. Leadership flexes and flows with the context and competencies. If we are on the cusp of a Green-to-Yellow transition, and we choose to co-create its emergence, we will need a courageous Fellowship of Love to stand up to the fear of first Tier.
We do not know exactly what ministry will look like in times of turbulence. But there are 5 possible lessons from this story.
- No one can do it alone. People who may not be used to cooperating must learn how to do so—uniting for a common cause.
- Rise to your Role. Roles may land on us that we are not crazy about. We each need to perform the role we feel called by Spirit to fulfill. To plant seeds, we must engage with the earth.
- Love is the point. Our mission must be clear and easy to understand. Unlike LOTR, we should define it not as an “against” as much as a “for”… what is the future we want to co-create? For Unity it is love, oneness, unity with diversity—all embodied in the world.
- Have faith. We will have the help we need. And it may show up in very unexpected forms.
- Have courage. Spirituality is not just an “inside job.” Sometimes we have to engage with an imperfect world. That is where we will be tested and forged into stronger steel. Prayer must also show as action.
This is a time of change. And we are called.