The second movie of The Lord of the Rings series, The Two Towers, begins with the introduction of a new character, Gollum. This fascinating character was a hobbit who got corrupted by the One Ring. He calls it, “My Precious.” Even though this ring of power extends his lifespan, it also twisted his body and mind.
The ring is a metaphor for human power and its corruption of the person, which in theological language, we call it “sin.” The desire to be in control and to be the most powerful is very attractive at first, but it pulls one in, keeps one trapped, and destroys the person deep from within — as if there is no escape. The poison of power and its numerous sins are so addictive that it often slowly chokes and destroys the person without him or her knowing it.
We can see this corruption within Gollum himself, which creates an internal conflict for the creature. The weak hobbit is often suppressed and controlled by the more powerful alter-ego that wants the ring at all costs! He lusts for the ring, but also at the same time, wants to be free from it. J.R.R. Tolkien, the famous Catholic writer of the series, said that he “loved and hated [the Ring], just as he loved and hated himself.” This poor, pitiful creature constantly lusts and chases after it, to the point that he forgot who he really is!
The ring brings him hellish enslavement and dependency on it; but once he lost it to Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit series, he miserably spent centuries looking for it. When he finds it again with Bilbo‘s nephew, Frodo Baggins, he becomes so distraught and wants it for himself again. He ultimately goes to his own demise when he tries — his last time — to get the ring from Frodo, hence falls to the Cracks of Doom itself, dies with his most loved and hated object.
Perhaps not as extreme as Gollum and his pitiful agonies, we can find ourselves in similar conflicts. Our pride desires control and power, to possess what is “precious” for us in our mind; but whatever this “precious” thing might be, it often brings us much distress and lack of peace in our very own lives, too. Deep down inside, we want to let go of what is enslaving us, but we are scared to let go because we are so used to it. We are scared of letting of our possessions, pride, or whatever we have built for ourselves to truly be living and grounded in the Lord! Yet, holding on to our ego-centered, manmade objects has and will continue to cause us our own demise.
Many scriptural passages remind us to let go of our humanistic, earthly, temporary, and corruptible goods in order to grab on to the eternal, everlasting, and most precious goodness and wisdom of God! We must let go of our own little self-created “My Precious” of control, pride, power, or whatever lesser goods for the most precious prize in the world, which is God and His infinite wisdom and goodness. This letting go of our insecurities, false comforts, and lesser goods, even the people we love at times, will seem like a cross — heavy and hard — to bear but we must continually do so if we want to be Christians. The Almighty has to be our first, foremost, and greatest good, and nothing else — no one else — can compare to Him! The cost of genuine discipleship will be hard and heavy to bear at times, but the Lord has to be the One we love more than anything and everything else. Hence, only when we personally know and embrace our first and foremost important priority — God and our eternal salvation — can we love everyone else as He loves us.
If you have some time, please read the short Letter of St. Paul to Philemon. It speaks much about Christian love for our neighbor, one that comes from the heart and beyond social classifications, differences, or reservations. Onesimus was Philemon‘s slave who ran away, guilty in the eyes of the law, and could be treated as his master would like, but St. Paul asked the master to welcome his subordinate back as a brother in Christ Jesus. We can assume that Philemon and Onesimus did not have a good relationship before his escape, but the apostle asks both of them to care and love one another. The saint asked the master to embrace the slave no longer as a slave, but as a brother and as a man in the Lord. That is true Christian love! True love is the one that is motivated and grounded, not on social standards, but in the communion and love that spring forth from one’s beliefs and understanding of Christ‘s radical love.
In a way, Frodo treats Gollum with compassion even though the creature keeps wanting to steal the ring from him. He cares for the creature even though he struggles with himself, to avoid being under the control of evil, paranoia, and self-centered fears. The main character of The Lord of the Rings is weak like many of us! He struggles to do the right thing, but the desire for power and possessiveness of earthly goods keep pulling him to its deceptive power. It makes him turns against people around him because he is scared of them stealing the ring from him. There are times in the story where he almost turns into Gollum or similar people who wanted to possess the ring in the past, doubting and pushing people around him away just because he wants the ring for himself. We can sense the slippery slope of over-possessiveness that motivates fears and creates isolation both in Frodo and in our very own lives. When we isolate people from our lives for the sake of something lesser, we lose the life-giving relationships and wisdom that keep us focused on what is real.
Nevertheless, it is because of the people around Frodo that keeps him grounded and focused on the mission to end the control of evil instead of letting it controls him. Similarly, Christian charity requires much more of us than our human standards of liking, retribution, or justice! We do all things because of Christ who loves us, not simply because of what we like or seem to be beneficial for us at the moment. Hence, that is why love is hard and heavy — like a cross — to bear at times.
As believers, we are invited to put God first and to do everything out of love for Him instead of chasing after human possessions or building things for ourselves. Once we love Him above all things, we can then really love Him in all things and everyone around us. Each and every moment, we are called to let go of our lesser “My Precious” in order to love and embrace the One who is truly precious and worthy of our love above all things. Only in His love can we embrace all out of genuine, theocentric love for others!
— (The picture of the character “Gollum” is taken from The Lord of the Rings movie series, The Two Towers, by New Line Cinema) —