Anyone that spends any amount of time with me picks up pretty quickly on the fact that I am a nerd. I wear this title as a badge of honor and will gladly engage with anyone that wants to talk about fandoms or world building or whether or not the character of Harry Potter is actually kind of insufferable (Hermione is where it’s at). And so, it comes as no surprise that, for my birthday this year, my husband gifted me with a Lord of the Rings style map of Ohio before we sat down to watch the third Hobbit movie together. I married my dream man.
Though I agree with those who say that The Hobbit did not need to be stretched into a trilogy, I stand by the fact that they all can still be heartily enjoyed. A star-crossed love story between a dwarf and an elf? The power of friendship? Dragon fire? Sign me up!
One particular scene in “The Battle of the Five Armies” has always stood out to me. It is brief but inevitably causes tears to spring in my eyes every time.
After being awoken from his nap by a certain hairy-footed burglar, the dragon Smaug sets out to wreak havoc on nearby Lake Town. This little fishing village, which is run by a greedy coward and composed of wooden houses on stilts above the water, does not stand a chance against the fiery fury of Smaug. He is tearing through and causing destroying everything in his path but, even as the town leader attempts to escape with all the gold, there is one man, Bard, who goes to the top of the watch tower to try and take Smaug down.
Bard’s arrows glance off of the dragon’s scales without causing any harm and, just as his last one is picked off, Bard looks down and sees his young son. He has brought his dad the only kind of arrow that can cut the dragon down, the last of its kind. Bard has a single chance to save the day.
Unfortunately, Smaug sweeps by and knocks over the top of the tower, thus taking out Bard’s bow, the only means of firing that single arrow. All hope seems lost, but Bard is resourceful. Here is my favorite moment:
Bard is able to construct a makeshift bow using what is left of the tower. In order to aim said arrow, he rests it on his son’s shoulder. There is fire all around and Smaug is taunting them and the boy is clearly scared out of his mind. When he starts to look over his shoulder as the dragon creeps closer to them, however, Bard is able to get his son’s attention. “Look at me,” he says, and lets the arrow fly. Thanks to the courage of both Bard and his son, Smaug is killed and the people of Lake Town are saved. There are still battles left to fight, but that moment is intimate, triumphant, and beautiful. It reminds me of Jesus.
Though my thoughts this week are not from the words of Scripture, I do believe that theology is to be found everywhere. For me, this fantastical story from an epic movie spoke three truths to my heart:
- God can use us.
When his bow was destroyed, Bard chose to use his son’s shoulder to steady the arrow that would rescue the day. This is not a perfect comparison because God does not need to use us in His plans, but He does choose to do so. The Lord invites us to take part in what He is doing. Bard accomplished his purpose through his son’s willingness, and I think that God does the same. God the Father brought about salvation through the willingness of God the Son and now, by the power of the Holy Spirit, God can use us to share His love and truth with all of creation. And so, like Bard’s son, we can offer our shoulder in a world that seems to be languishing in flames. Our courage and faith in what God can do brings glory to the one who is the ultimate victor.
- We have our own Smaug.
We have an enemy that prowls like a roaring lion (1 Pet. 5:8). He is loud and scary and distracting. When Bard’s son is standing in front of his father, he struggles to not turn around and look at the monster that is stalking them. While these brave people were preparing for their final stand against them, Smaug is whispering lies and proclaiming his own glory. I know from experience that the devil is not much different. As we are stepping out in faith, as we are seeking to be used by and present with God, our enemy is always behind us. Though we know that the Lord has already won, we can acknowledge that that serpentine tongue is enough to make us want to turn our heads and give in to the fear that threatens us so mercilessly. The heat on our necks can be powerful and painful, but luckily, we are not facing that alone.
- “Look at me.”
While in the throes of such terror, Bard is able to get his son’s attention by telling him to look into his father’s eyes and nowhere else. What a wonderful display of Jesus. When hell itself seemed to be creeping closer and closer, when Bard’s son was in the process of participating in something very brave and incredibly scary, he had a loving focal point on which to zero in. It always reminds me of the song “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” which says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” A lot is going to happen this side of Paradise. Sometimes it will be a dragon named Smaug and sometimes it will look a bit more like a global pandemic or anxiety about the future or lack of clarity in the face of trauma. Though we are not spared from these things, the good news is that we need not look them in the eye. We have a better gaze to meet, which pulls us up and out, reminding us that, despite it all, we are safe and loved.
For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, the truths of God can present themselves in some of the most unlikely of places. For me, a hobbit’s journey brought me face to face with my Lord, who uses me despite my trepidation and who is victorious over the most frightening of circumstances. I need only to show up, look in His eyes, and trust. I believe He invites us to the top of the watch tower and says, “Do not be afraid.”
Smaug is no match for the love of our Father.