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Climbing a Pile of Bones

Updated: Jun 12

Yes, I admit it. I’m a Lord of the Ringstrilogy nerd. I’ve watched every single movie multiple times with my sons, including the Director’s cut extended versions. My sons would say I’m a wannabe fan since I don’t know the name of every character, every piece of jewelry and the powers it contains, etc. But any movie I’m willing to watch again and again is, for me, serious commitment.

In the extended version of The Return of the King, there’s this really bizarre deleted scene where Aragorn, who becomes the king, and his friends are under a mountain in a cavernous, dark cave. Suddenly, out of the dark recesses, comes wave after wave of dried up human bones. They literally almost seem to drown in this sea of death. The characters keep trying to climb up and up, but the bones slip out beneath their weight and they slide further and further away from the exit that would lead them to safety and freedom.

I think sometimes I forget that trying to climb through this life using the world’s definitions of success can be a lot like climbing a pile of bones. I keep thinking just one more step, or that next big achievement, will enable me to exit uncertainty and take me to a place of constant joy and peace. But just as if I were climbing a true pile of bones, achieving that next big whatever is a shifting foundation. The joy, peace and satisfaction I feel lasts for a short while, and then my sense of restlessness returns.

So I get sucked back down into what I think I need to do or achieve, or how I can acquire that next thing, or relationship, or accolade, or whatever to find the exit. Trying to climb a mountain of bones is wearing.

I have learned the incredible value of making sure what I pour and build into in this life is not only of worth, but also has a much firmer foundation than a pile of bones. Houses and cars can be taken from me. The stock market goes up and down. Objects can break or be stolen or devalued. Even relationships, which I believe are one of the greatest blessings we can experience on this earth, are only temporary, as is my life. When I depart this earth, it will be with nothing but my soul … and my walk with God.

My relationship with God is ultimately the only thing I have found that consistently brings me true peace and joy. No one can take it from me. No one can destroy it. It’s not dependent on what anyone else does or doesn’t do. His love for me isn’t even dependent on what I do or don’t do. It’s eternal, everlasting. It is the only thing I get to take out of this life with me.

I am amazed sometimes at how much I can put aside what most matters—my relationship with Jesus—for what happens to be most in front of me. I can tell when I start to do it, too, because that same sense of restlessness, that same neediness of spirit returns, and I catch myself wanting to fill my time to the brim for many, many reasons, usually none of them very good. In those moments, I have discovered the importance of stepping back and looking at what I’m building in my life. Am I taking the time to build on a firm foundation with God, or on a foundation of bones that will eventually collapse beneath me, no matter how skilled at climbing I become? With that reminder, I am able to get back to investing in what most matters in my life, and as I do, my peace and joy return.

For Further Thought: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it has its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash, “ (Matthew 7:24-27). What can you do this week to be sure you’re building your life on solid rock, not sand?

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