Have you ever thought of yourself as the hero of your own story? Many of our most popular stories, told through the medium of film, follow a similar pattern. A hero is called, he may or may not at first reject the call. Eventually he takes up the call, crosses a threshold into a new world of awe and wonder, and begins his quest for the prize. Along the way he is harassed by the villain, tested, tried, and usually sorely tempted to give up his quest.
This pattern has been called the Hero’s journey and we see it repeated over and over again in our books and movies. It speaks to us at a deep level because it is the pattern of our lives. We frequently see our own lives up on the big screen dressed up in all sorts of interesting ways.
So where does temptation figure into all this?
Let’s take the Lord of the Rings for example. The hero, Frodo, has to take a ring, which represents evil, deep into the domain of evil and throw it into a volcano in order to destroy the ring and save his world.
Early on Frodo is tempted to give the task over to someone else, someone stronger and tougher, who is up to the job. You see, Frodo is a hobbit. Hobbits are quiet, simple people, hardly the stuff of which heroes are made. So Frodo offers the ring to Gandalf the wizard, Frodo is tempted to take the easy way out, go home to a life of comfort and ease, and forget about the peril the rest of the world faces.
Gandalf, to whom Frodo offers the ring, has his own hero’s story arc. He is tempted to take the ring, abandon the long way, and take a shortcut to defeating evil by using its own power against it. The danger is that the ring was created by a satanic type figure, the embodiment of evil, the ring is powerful but it is a power that corrupts anyone who tries to use it.
Frodo and Gandalf are both tempted to think of themselves and abandon the world that is counting on their success.
Each of us is on our own hero’s journey. We are all on a quest to find God, we face trials and challenges along the way and we have a villain who is constantly trying to trip us up.
The devil would like nothing more than to see us fail. Because the last thing he wants is for us to be re-united with God.
So the devil sends us temptations, designed to draw us away from the path, give up, go home, and take it easy.
Jesus came to us with His own quest, to establish the Kingdom of God here on earth. And the devil took advantage of every possible weakness in an attempt to convince Jesus to betray His mission.
Similarly the devil hounds each one of us, offering us quick, albeit morally questionable, solutions, easy money, and a life of comfort. He does this in an effort to make us forsake the path and give up on God, betraying our trust in our heavenly Father, and preferring instead to trust in ourselves.
But if we do this, if we take the easy path, we abandon the world that is counting on our success. The prize we seek is not a personal one, it is an elixir of everlasting life, meant for all mankind. We each have a part in this epic quest, and if we abandon it there is no way to know how many souls will be lost.
God, on the other hand send us challenges to overcome, challenges that will prepare us, and strengthen us for what lies ahead. Because after all obtaining the prize is only half the story. Our true quest is then to return to where we started and help others in their own journey.
Trials and temptations, one comes from God, the other comes rom the evil one. But we have help, we have a mentor (a figure that also shows up in our movies) who helps us along the way, someone who has been on their own journey and come back to show us the way.
We may have many mentors in our lives but the one true mentor, the one we are all called to follow by example is Jesus, the Messiah, the anointed one.
And Jesus shows us how to deal with the temptations of the evil one, by absolute, complete faith and trust in God.
As we begin our Lenten journey, let us resolve to follow in the footsteps of Christ.