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Why is it important to interpret our life and see events we’ve experienced through God’s eyes? How did God use the Lord of the Rings movies to speak to me on this very subject?
Read on to find out more.
Why is it important to interpret life through God’s eyes?
Fear. The word is often made into a catchy acronym which stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. Sometimes our fears are real and based on an actual threat or danger. In those times, the acronym doesn’t hold true. There is a genuine reason to be afraid, and our fear isn’t simply an illusion.
At other times however, our fear is governed by a perceived threat or misinterpretation of events. This can lead to fears resulting from something that isn’t in fact true. We may have a narrow understanding of things based on limited or false evidence.
When we wrongly interpret so-called evidence, we can come to the wrong conclusion. It can lead to fear. In the context of a relationship, this can be disastrous. It can drive a wedge of mistrust between two parties. Everything you view through those spectacles of mistrust causes you to see things in the wrong way and only appears to confirm your fears.
American author and counsellor John Eldredge has a series of podcasts over at his Ransomed Heart Ministries website with the late Craig McConnell (the vice-president of Ransomed Heart) from July 2017. In the four-part series, they discuss how every day we interpret the actions or inactions of God, the way others interact with you, what they said, their body language etc. All of these can have a huge impact on our internal thoughts and the way our lives are shaped as a result.
Have you ever seen those TV shows or films (like Vantage Point) where it shows a certain set of events from one person’s perspective, and then it revisits the same events and shows it from another perspective? Often the interpretation of events can seem in contradiction to one another depending on the other person’s point of view. It’s often referred to as the Rashomon Effect, named after Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 film Rashomon, which was seminal in employing this stylistic device. When we see things from another perspective, it can completely change how we viewed the event originally, and our subsequent memory of that event.
It is important to interpret the events of our lives correctly. We need understand what is really going on from God’s perspective rather than what we perceive to be going on, which may be inaccurate if we don’t have all the facts. Misinterpreting things which can have a negative impact on the way we view our life or see God. We can then begin to project our feelings of resentment onto him.
Eldredge mentions how God can take us back to revisit old wounds which may have had a negative interpretation before. Sometimes God wants to frame things in a new way so that we can break free of feelings of rejection, guilt, brokenness, bitterness etc.
This is something he did in my own life by redeeming a word given to me that carried immense feelings of dread and left me somewhat estranged from God.
My story and how interpreting things in a certain way can affect your life
A number of years ago when I was a much newer Christian, someone once gave me a word of prophecy at a Bible study group. However, instead of using proper discernment or sensitivity, they simply told me: “God is going to prune you. He is saying he will take away everything you hold dear until you turn to him and rely on him alone.”
Take note: if you have a word of prophecy for someone, do NOT go about giving it to them this way.
When someone gives you a word of prophecy, it should always be encouraging to you. It should not fill you with fear or dread. The word I received was more like a prophet of doom telling me “if you don’t change your ways, then this will happen”. However, it was not that I was involved in any kind of major sin when this word was given to me. Nevertheless, that was how that word came across.
Now chapter 15 of John’s Gospel does tell us about the Father pruning any branches that don’t bear fruit. However, the way this woman said it to me had a damaging effect on the rest of my life and walk with God. I was always expecting things to go wrong, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I was never quite trusting God anymore. Instead of seeing him as a loving father, I tended to see him more as someone who only ever wanted to teach me a lesson in all circumstances.
I always had a sense of wondering if God was about to pull the rug out from under my feet at any moment.
In many ways, some of this became a self-fulfilling prophecy. As the book of Job 3:25 says:
“What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.”
For much of my life, I felt this word of prophecy was something ominous. It seemed that God would take away all the things in my life that could mean anything to me – family, friends, health, relationships, work, talents etc. After all, how else might you interpret something like that?
I saw this playing out in many areas of my life such as lack of relationships, difficulty finding work, using my gifts and many other things too numerous to mention here. This sent me into a long wilderness and period of barrenness. I became very cynical towards God. It was difficult to see his goodness in anything. There were some years where it seemed that with everything I prayed, the exact opposite would happen such that it seemed that God would frustrate my plans at every turn. Or if something good did finally happen and I told others about it, soon that thing was reversed.
How can you really trust someone when it seems that everything in your life is always taken away, and you feel that he is always turning every situation into a lesson to be learnt.
But about a year or so ago, God helped me to reinterpret this word given to me. Sure, I did understand that the word wasn’t something I should necessarily take to heart. We do need discernment as to whether God is really speaking to us. However, God was able to redeem the meaning of it and help me see it in a new light.
How God spoke to me through the Lord of the Rings movies to help me gain a new perspective
I had never seen any of the Lord of the Rings movies before. Mostly because they seemed too long. However, my brother has a young daughter who was a huge fan. On their recommendation, I decided to give it a go.
I began watching the entire thing in chronological order starting from the Hobbit prequels first and then eventually getting to the original Lord of the Rings trilogy. I viewed it in serialised form more like a season of TV, watching an hour at a time over several weeks.
To give you a bit of background to understand the context, let me see if I can explain the main story. I’ve only ever watched the whole thing once, so I’m by no means an expert on this and may have missed some details. The driving plot throughout both trilogies is a MacGuffin known as the One Ring, This was created by the dark lord Sauron as the ultimate weapon that would enable him to conquer Middle-earth.
The ring itself represented idolatry. Anyone who came into possession of the ring became corrupted by its lure.
One of the characters named Gollum (played by Andy Serkis) was a ghastly but pitiful creature who had once been a Hobbit named Smeagol. However, he had been tempted by the ring and, in a moment of insanity, had murdered his best friend in order to possess it. Over the course of hundreds of years, he lost all sense of dignity. Whatever shred there was left of him was gone as he underwent a terrible transformation from a person to a monster. He lived in isolation by himself. All he cared about was the ring, and he would spend hours admiring it. His obsession with it consumed him entirely.
Gollum treasured this ring with all his heart and referred to it as “my precious”. As a result, he had “gained the whole world but lost his soul.” Gollum is a warning to all of us of as to what we could if we make anything else “our precious”. In other words, if we make anything else our idol.
Gollum was now at war with himself, similar to what St Paul talks about in the Bible in Romans 7: 14-25. Many times throughout the course of the films, Gollum would have a conversation with himself, as if he had a split personality. He hated his evil self and the evil that he did. He also hated the lure of the ring, but at the same time being unable to break free of it because of its hold over him.
Bilbo Baggins (played by Martin Freeman) was the hero of the Hobbit prequels and seemed incorruptible. However, in one of the Hobbit movies, he came into possession of the ring, which he had stolen from Gollum. Over the course of time, he kept taking the ring out to gaze upon its beauty. As such, he began to be tempted by its magnetic power.
Are you still with me? Here’s the bit where it’s relevant to my life and situation.
By the time of the Fellowship of the Ring, there was a scene at the beginning of the movie where Bilbo Baggins (now an old man played by Ian Holm) was becoming consumed with the ring himself.
In the scene, Gandalf tells Bilbo that he needs to surrender the ring because it isn’t good for him. However, Bilbo can’t let go. He insists that it is his. He found it. The Hobbit begins to look at it lustfully and then utters the words “my precious”. At that moment he sounds eerily like Gollum himself.
Upon hearing this, Gandalf is shocked. He says that he’s heard someone else referring to it in that way before a long time ago. None other than Gollum of course. Gandalf knows the dangers of the ring. If Bilbo were to give himself over to it, he would become like Gollum himself.
When Bilbo insists that it is his and that Gandalf wants it for himself, the wizard’s voice suddenly becomes stern. He grows huge in stature and looms menacingly over him as the room grows dark. “Bilbo Baggins,” he says. “Do not take me for some conjuror of cheap tricks. I am not trying to rob you…” His voice softens as the darkness dissipates. Then he assures him lovingly: “I’m trying to help you.”
Then he says to him in a loving way “All these long years we have been friends. Trust me as you once did.”
When I saw this scene, I had an epiphany and felt God speaking to me directly. He had reinterpreted things in a new light, and this brought freedom.
All this time, because of that prophecy, I had felt that God was a severe father who merely always wanted to discipline or prune me to the exclusion of all else.
Yes, I realise God disciplines those he loves. He prunes the branches of the vine so that we will bear more fruit.
However, I had long felt that God had become someone I couldn’t relate to anymore. He was more like a cosmic killjoy out to spoil everything and take everything away from me. I always felt that he was constantly trying to rob me of everything – everything I held dear. But what if he wasn’t? What if he was trying to help me?
What if the things that God was taking away that I held “dear” were actually the things I held “precious”? In other words, what if, like Bilbo Baggins, I had begun to regard these things as “my precious” as a substitute word for “dear”?
And what if, like the ring, they were all the idols in my life that I made “my precious”? Perhaps they had tightened their grip on me and were in danger of corrupting me.
I felt God telling me directly: “All these long years we have been friends. Trust me as you once did.”
And then it dawned on me. What if God was not trying to rob me, but to help me?
Would this not display God’s love to me all along? That he didn’t want me to become corrupted by all of these things?
American pastor and author Tim Keller, in his book Counterfeit gods, describes an idol as:
“… something we cannot live without… It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give. A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.”
This can be something that is perfectly legitimate and good in its own right such as the desire to be married, have children, a career, health etc.
When we have been longing for something in our lives to happen, it can begin to consume our every thought and our entire prayer life. We begin to seek God not for himself but for what he can give us.
God wants us to have a faith that is more precious than gold. He doesn’t want us to put our trust in anything else, or to derive our self worth from these things. In fact, as Isaiah 43:4 tells us, we are precious in God’s sight.
Do you have the correct interpretation of your life?
Maybe you too have been wrestling with God all your life. Perhaps you’ve been thinking he has wounded you, either through unanswered prayers, disappointments, or seeming inaction on God’s part. Perhaps this may have affected your perception of him and the way your life has unfolded.
We are often bound and captive to our interpretation of the world. We are governed by our emotions and the way we feel about certain events. But just because we feel negative emotions about something doesn’t mean this is the correct interpretation of what we have experienced.
Once we begin to see things in a new way, we can experience freedom from unnecessary guilt, shame, bitterness, unforgiveness and even abandoned hopes and dreams.
Maybe it’s time to ask God to show you things in a new way. To reinterpret the events of your life and see it from God’s perspective. Like Gandalf, he says “I’m not trying to rob you, I’m trying to help you.”
Have you experienced anything in life which has negatively affected you or your relationship with God? Are you positive it is the correct interpretation of events? Or could God help you see it differently?
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Robert is the founder of Drawing on the Word. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Theology and a Master’s degree in Systematic Theology. He also has a degree in Law and was called to the Bar. Robert previously taught religious studies and was a theology lecturer. He is an artist, musician and writer, and has created a graphic novel version of Luke’s gospel. You can follow him below.