There was a merry passenger,
a messenger, a mariner:
He built a gilded gondola
to wander in . . . .
It’s a sad tale, Tolkien’s “Errantry,” but I love to read it aloud to hear the words rolling by. The messenger goes on a long adventure, seeing strange lands, inveigling a butterfly into marriage with him, and then quarreling and leaving her for more adventures — battles with dragonflies and honeybees — and collection of treasure.
When he finally arrives home, it is only to discover that he has forgotten the errand on which he first set out and has not delivered his message.
. . . .And so he must depart again,
and start again his gondola,
forever still a messenger, a passenger, a tarrier,
a roving as a feather does,
a weather-driven mariner.
The poem starts in such excitement and ends in such wistfulness. All the glory of “derring-do and glamoury,” yet at the end he is left lonely and placeless. In spite of all, he is not a conquering hero; he is a messenger who failed to deliver.
We’ve heard that “It’s about the journey” rather than the destination; but when you’re a messenger, it can’t be just about the journey. When you’re a messenger, it’s about the message.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of people train and participate in marathon races, named for the legendary run of a Greek soldier carrying the news of a decisive victory from Marathon to Athens. Legend has him running a distance of perhaps forty kilometers nonstop after fighting in the battle, and then falling dead when his message — “We have won” — was delivered. We wouldn’t have named a race after him if he’d decided it was about the journey instead of the destination, if he’d stopped along the way to see the sights, collect souvenirs, get to know the people. But for him, it was about the message.
If we are in Christ, we have been entrusted with a message: God, reconciling the world to Himself through Christ, who died and was raised that we might live for Him. “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us.”
It may involve journeying a weary way; it may in some cases require a gilded gondola; we may have to battle enemies. But we must not mistake “glamoury and derring-do” for the goal, or think that the journey itself is more important than the message we carry. Ambassadors speak and act for those whom they represent; their concern is to do that well.
Jesus Christ, the Lord of the universe, who first brought the message of reconciliation, gave His life delivering it; should we expect to do less? Ours is no aimless wandering: eyes on the goal, feet on the path. When the message has been delivered, when the race is finished, we will know, with more certainty than that original Marathon runner, we have won.
Linking up with Lisa-Jo and friends to write on her Friday prompt: messenger. Use the button above to read more!
©2014 by Stacy Nott