Tending to Our Inner Gollum
Do you remember the nickname Gollum gave to the ring of power in Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings?
He called the ring his “Precious.”
Tolkien was conveying the human condition when he put forth that little detail. It is our fallen human tendency to grasp our own version of the “Precious” to replace Jesus as our functional lord and savior. C.S. Lewis put it like this:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Similarly, explaining the biblical rationale that only Jesus can provide the ultimate answer to the question, “What do I still lack?” Lewis said:
“God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way… God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.”
If Lewis is right, that God alone can provide the answer to the ache in our souls, then just how do we live in the reality that only God clearly lights our way? How do we store up treasures in heaven while ceasing to store up treasures on earth? How do we seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, that all these things may be added to us also? How do we exchange our life lie for the truth of God and lean our success ladders against the right wall instead of the wrong one. How do we loosen our grip on the seductive “Precious” to instead return the embrace of God, who alone can fill the “infinite abyss” that is our grand and glorious, image-bearing souls?
The answer, from nineteenth century minister, Thomas Chalmers, is to turn our eyes toward “the expulsive power of a new affection.” For the counterfeit treasures’ spell over us to be broken and for our grip to be loosened, the life lie must be expelled and replaced in our hearts with the one, true, living God. For as we are told by the prophet Jonah, “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (Jonah 2:8).
For whatever “Precious” we believe will make us rich, in truth it will make us poor.
Whatever Precious we believe will make us strong, in truth it will make us weak.
Whatever Precious we believe will make us happy, in truth it will make us sad.
Whatever Precious we believe will set us free, in truth it will enslave us.
Whatever Precious we believe will give us life to the full, in truth it will leave us empty.
Whatever Precious we believe will satisfy our souls’ thirst, in truth it will leave our souls desert-dry parched.
This is where it becomes painful, because this is where Jesus confronts our inner Gollum—that part of us that desperately wants to keep living in the dark, clinging to things that will wreck us if we look to them to save us.
God have mercy on us if we consider any possession—whether it be wealth, fame, recognition, romance, career, or any other thing—to be so precious that we would prefer it over Him. And we need this mercy, because we do keep looking for our worth in people, places, and things that will ultimately not breathe life into us, but take life from us. We continue to cling to worthless idols and risk forfeiting the grace that could be ours in Christ.
To this vulnerability in us, to our “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love,” Jesus flips the light switch on for us, too. As our hearts are illuminated, we respond by yielding all that we see to him—our money, our religion, our moral virtue, our acclaim, our friends and social networks, our kids and our spouse, and every other wrong wall we are leaning on. We recognize that all these things belong on the periphery; only Jesus reigns at the center. He decides what your life will look like, how much power and influence you will have, what people think of you, what will come of your singleness or your marriage or your children or your friendships, what your net worth will be.
Jesus says, “It’s time to cut the emotional umbilical cord and plug it into me, because I am your one true source for life (John 15:5). I am your shield and your very great reward (Genesis 15:1). I am your share, your portion, your inheritance, your true and lasting wealth (Numbers 18:20). I am the one thing that you lack, the one thing you should ask for, the one thing your heart should seek, the one thing your eye should fixate upon” (Psalm 27:4).
We will find life in no other place.
Terrific devo. Thank you. Love the quotes and tying it together. Grace and inner Gollum. Very helpful spiritually. Jesus is sufficient alone.
I love this, and am thankful for its timing. In the wake of all the Cyber Monday madness, I needed to read these words. Thank you!
EXCELLENT thoughts!! Does anyone know where the Lewis quotes are from?? I would love to know. Thanks Charlotte
Wow! This article calls me to take a much closer look at my life. Do I have idols in my life to give me temporary happiness outside the true peace and joy that comes from my relationship to God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit? If I answer truthfully I have to say yes. Lord, let my total purpose for living be directed toward your will in my life.
Scott, thanks so much for this article.
I wrote a lengthier post on a similar topic today. Thanks for this.
Thank you so much for the wise words.
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