It’s amazing how easily the urge to quit overcomes logic. Never mind the dreams and goals you sacrifice when you give up; sometimes quitting equates to absolute destruction. If you quit on a project at work, you’ll get fired. If you quit while running from a bear, you’ll get eaten. And so forth. But still that siren call of “forget it” echoes on the wind.
Like Frodo Baggins. Many of us have seen the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Perhaps you remember the final movie, Return of the King. Frodo must throw the One Ring into the volcanic Mount Doom to destroy it. If he doesn’t, the world will end. This is no abstract thought; enemies are all around him. He’s in the heart of enemy territory and sees what failure will do to the world. And he’s been through plenty of it himself.
And he collapses.
Right on Mount Doom, one lap from the checkered flag. People are dying, evil is growing, he’s so close to his goal, yet Frodo faints. He knows that if he gives up, he and everyone he loves will perish. But after the journey he’s had, sleep–even with rocks for pillows and ash in his breath–sounds so sweet.
I guess that’s how I feel.
I’ve been looking for work for over a month now. Some of you laugh at this and say you’ve been out of work for much longer. So have I; some years ago, I was unemployed for ten months. Why does a month frighten me?
Because my rent is due in 22 days and I don’t have it. Because my wife had a job last time. Because I’m not a single man who can take any job available and scrape by; I have a wife and child and they need to eat. If I quit, my family suffers, big time.
But God, I’m tired. Tired of looking through job postings and not finding a single job that I can do or one that pays even close to what I need to make it through the month. Tired of looking at the workforce and not having a clue how to navigate it. Tired of feeling alone, ignorant, and worthless.
Today it seemed to hit me. How hard it is to find proofreading/editing clients. How hard it is to get a novel published. How few marketable skills I seem to possess. How few people I know in my business or interest group. How fickle people are. How expensive life can be, even a Ramen lifestyle. How likely it is that I’ll have to go back to the work that I hated in order to survive.
How much I want to quit. Even though quitting guarantees homelessness and hunger.
Along Came Sam.
One of the best and most moving parts of Return of the King has also been ridiculed as one of the gayest moments. When Frodo collapses within a stone’s throw of his destiny, his best friend Samwise Gamgee see how hard Frodo’s burden has been and says, “I can’t carry it for you…but I can carry you!” And he picks up Frodo and carries him to his goal.
How beautiful. How powerful. How absent in today’s society.
Everybody needs a Sam. Sam does more than offer encouraging words or prayers (where most people stop). He goes with him on the journey, suffers with him, sacrifices his own food and water for him, and when crunch time comes, he literally carries him. How many of us could say we have a friend like that?
That’s why I’m glad I have my wife. When I wanted to quit my job and follow my dream, she packed a bag and went with me. My actions affect her stomach, but she’s right here. She’s even trying to find work (and succeeding more than I am) while I strive to be what I want to be. And I’m glad that I can be her Sam when she collapses on her mountain.
She keeps me going. Not with nagging or worrying, not with nice words, but by packing a sword and some frying pans and leaving The Shire with me.
Closer Than a Brother
But there’s more. The Bible says “…there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24b). It gets even better than Sam. Loosely speaking, this verse refers to God, who says he’ll never leave or forsake us, who died, rose, and sent the Holy Spirit in his stead so we wouldn’t be alone.
A Samwise Gamgee who never sleeps, never complains, and never looks back.
I don’t know what I’d do without that. Without God, it’s just me trying to make my own way, and every day I’m here I’m reminded how incompetent I am. It’s going to take a miracle to become the man I want to be. It’s nice to follow God at times like this.
Heck, he’s the one who called me out in the first place. He called me Cyrano and he’s the one who has to make it happen. In a way, that’s relaxing. There’s no possible way I can do this. But I don’t have to.
One more day. One more mile. One more minute.
The well-meaning ignorant seem to think that hope is an anesthetic. That you pray or look to the future in the morning and you can live out your entire day in a happy cloud.
That’s what those of us who can’t cuss call “boosh.” Sometimes, pockets of energy are all you get. Sometimes Sam has to carry you. Sometimes both. And that’s okay. The cross was no picnic for Jesus. Mount Doom is aptly named. Life, even the life God has for me, isn’t going to be a pleasant slide down a rainbow.
So here’s an alternative to quitting: rest. Catch your breath, cry, scream, let your Sam carry you a while, do what you must. It will help you get back up and make the next mile where you might have to take another break.
I know. It’s how I’ve survived today so far. Push through, pray for strength, push through, cry, push through, eat something tasty, push through, etc. I don’t necessarily have to get that job today, and you don’t necessarily have to do what you have to do all in one gasp.
My son is waking up. So for now, I’ll just pray I have the strength to be the stay-at-home Dad. To play with him and make him laugh. Perhaps I’ll play some good music–we both like heavy metal, oddly. For now, I just pray for enough energy to get me to the next checkpoint.
No, more than that. I want enough energy to share with him so he knows life is worth living even in the hard times. And some more to encourage my wife when she gets back from doing her part to keep our family going.
And some for you, too.