We once more commonly prayed:
Thou knowest, Lord, the secrets of our hearts; shut not thy merciful ears unto our prayers; but spare us, Lord most holy, O God most mighty. O holy and most merciful Savior, thou most worthy Judge eternal, suffer us not, at our last hour, for any pains of death, to fall from thee.
But it does often come down to a final moment or so. The rich man who came to Jesus had all his ducks in a row until our Lord asked the man then to give away all that he had and it was too much. Curiously, it happens in nearly every congregation. A member or family within the parish is there all the time until suddenly they are not. The hours of their later year see them fall away. It sort of reminds you of how Tolkien described how Frodo found it hard to let go. Frodo's life and destiny lay in his heroic purpose as the ring-bearer whose entire journey in life was finally fulfilled when, at the end, he was told to through the ring into fires of the Mount of Doom.
If you’re a reader who appreciates Tolkien and his trilogy Lord of the Rings -- or you just like to hear a sermon and prayer with just a movie-goer), then you know that the central, heroic character, the young Mr. Frodo, ring-bearer, fails to throw the Ring into the fire. When it was all theoretical, it was easy but as soon as it became personal, it became a problem. The fire had consumed every scrap of goodness and destiny. But he was there -- still awaiting their fulfillment of his purpose. The whole future hinged upon Frodo but he was not there alone. The Lord was there but Frodo had held onto the mystery of the magic he had held in his hand and was not ready to let it go. And then another one entered the story primarily to finish what Frodo could not. He was not the hero people had been rooting for or expected. He was, instead, a pitiable creature who acted not with finesse but brute force. Gollum bit off Frodo’s finger not for the end but to claim it for himself. Then an accident saw the ring slip from his hand, fall into the consuming fire and he ended up saving Middle Earth in the end.
Frodo’s failure lies at the heart and core of the intersection of reason, feelings, and truth. In his failure to hold onto the ring at the last, he was providing for the last minute to stand with the weakest of the weak and rest upon God's promises. We do need e think to ourselves that a life-time of struggle can be undone in a single moment. It is, I think, a terrible notion of free-will and the power of choice. Instead it is a testament to destiny -- not one in stone but one that marshals the hidden reality of who we are and whose we are. Frodo was right there and was a moment away from finishing the awe-full reality of his destiny until he was not. He could not let go. His heart had become consumed by what was not his. Though the world parades the myth of progress, we see the failure in the hour of trial and Frodo's heart betrays to all what had been hidden therein.
Frodo undoubtedly had prayed that in the hour of destiny, his will would not fail him but it did. It failed. He failed. He could not let go of what was in his hand. Will we be where he is? Frodo was not worn down by a last minute challenge but the growth of the betrayal of his heart that had begun so long ago he had not noticed it until finally he could not overcome it. I wonder if Tolkien had in mind the solemn words of Jesus: He who endures to the end shall be saved. Or maybe he had prayed himself the prayer with which I began this modest meandering thought. In either case, Frodo's witness of warning stands for us all. . . . spare us, Lord most holy, O God most mighty. O holy and most merciful Savior, thou most worthy Judge eternal, suffer us not, at our last hour, for any pains of death, to fall from thee. . .