On a recent revisit to The Lord of the Rings, I was particularly struck by Theoden, the King of Rohan. When we meet him early in The Two Towers, he is an older gentleman, and his mind has been contaminated by evil. However, after an exorcism from Gandalf, he returns to his right mind and leads his people to battle.
But he goes into battle knowing that he will not see the end result. He is fighting for the freedom and preservation of Rohan, Gondor, and all Middle Earth really. However, he knows that he will not see the liberated Rohan (and Gondor) in his lifetime. In all likelihood, he will die in this war or soon after its end. He knows this. He is not fighting for himself. The young men around him-Faramir, Eomer, and Aragorn-fight with the hope that they will see their goal accomplished. They will live in the free Rohan, the free Gondor, the free Middle Earth. Theoden does not go to war with this hope. Theoden goes to war with the mentality that he will not see the end of the war. If his side wins the war, he is unlikely to see the end. He does not fight for himself. He fights for others.
I was struck by this in the context of Christianity. I teach middle school religion, and at times I wonder why I’m doing this. Why am I teaching other people’s children about the history and the faith of the Catholic Church? Why do I as a childless woman pour an hour of my day every school day (and more time preparing myself outside the building) into teaching children about the importance of having a relationship with Jesus Christ? I will probably never really see or know these kids after they graduate from middle school. I am unlikely to see them as adults or to see what becomes of their faith. Why am I fighting for a something that I will never actually see?
Theoden fights because he believes in the cause. He wants his people-especially his niece and nephew-to see better days, to live in a better world. While he may not live to see a free Middle Earth, a Middle Earth free from Sauron’s evil, he wants others to live in this world. He wants to make a better world for others even if he does not have the opportunity to see that world for himself.
Similarly, I want a better world for my students. I want them to know and understand their faith. I want to share Jesus Christ with them. Even if I never see the end and I never know what happens to them, I want to share Jesus with them. I want them to hear about a Jesus who loves them. I fight to pass down the faith of our fathers. I may not know if they come to a full and deep relationship with Jesus. But I fight to give them that opportunity. Like Theoden, I have hope for their future, for them to find a future full of hope, joy, and goodness.