If the little woods we planted thirty years ago is My Narnia, then for sure the lake house in Michigan is My Rivendell.
For sixty years my family has summered there amidst the cedar and the spring-fed quicksilver they call a lake. It is my bliss. A dream-like place, it was built down a mile-long road at a time between a horse-drawn existence and the Model T. It’s a summer home, really. Five bedrooms, three baths, and most importantly three glorious porches to watch the world from. My Rivendell.
But with blessings come responsibilities. A white, 120-foot wooden dock that we whitewash every third year and is in constant need of repair, is the gateway to this dream lake. It has fifteen, eight-foot sections that lead straight out over the water with a right turn into a U-shaped boat slip and a huge sunbathing platform.
From this dock we test the waters, begin life’s voyages, gaze into the liquid mirror of Galadriel, notice creatures in the world beneath the surface of MiddleEarth, and study the starry host at night for what they may foretell. “The stars. The forget-me-nots of angels.” – Longfellow
Therefore, as with all physical things, the white, wooden dock must be cared for, and we are the care-givers. Newly replaced boards and chipped paint must be covered for protection from the evils of wind and sun and rain. So out come the white dock stain, the tray, the roller, but first–the scraper. As with most worthy endeavors in life, the actual painting is the fun part–the joy of transformation to the new and fresh. The drudge is in the prep work. Hot. Messy. Bone-hard scraping. This cannot be done by mere standing, for it can only be achieved in one way–on my knees.
I started at the shore amidst the watercress, the mint, and the forget-me-nots, in the shade of a whispering paper birch. That’s how most epic tales start. But it was not long when the sun beat my shoulders and my knees ached. I scraped three feet at a time in front of me, lifting and removing all loose bits, then rising from my knees and sliding my knee pad. I would inch ahead, sink to my knees, and keep scraping. It was not long before I wished for shade, blessed the breeze, and looked with longing at the smiling waters. But at least I was here in the place I love–on my knees in Rivendell.
When followers of Christ fall to their knees, a miracle happens. You remember whose you are. Your eyes open. The latent, sub-surface dreams and thoughts pour into your mind and you find yourself in dialogue with the Maker. He’s been waiting just to be asked. Some call it prayer. But to me, it’s just asking. A family member is tormented by pain. My loved one is being led the wrong way, but what should I do? Will our land be healed, or will it go into the shadows until Your return? If so, will You show me the right path? Or as Gandalf said, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
But for now, I was being shown my task. Scrape the old paint off. Put on the new.
Every now and then, my knee-questions were disturbed by interruptions. I lost my focus. After all, there were twin eagles! Azure skies! Passing boats. Comedic ducks. And here a dragonfly, newly hatched, still clung to the vestiges of its old larva shell. How silly of it! Did it not know that was just its shell, and that now it could actually fly? But even new-born dragonflies must dry their wings first, and that takes time. They must wait for the sunshine to pour in. And waiting is not very adventurous.
My mind had drifted away from the dialogue with my Maker to do some self-centered math. How many times did I need to heave up from my stiff knees, move ahead, and sink into scraping again? Three times per section, so forty-five. Plus the sundeck and that makes at least seventy times. Reminds me of seventy times seven–those famous words. What about the ones from whom I need forgiveness? Now there was a thought. More scraping.
Looking back on that day, I see now that perhaps the time that was given me on my knees was the beginning of the adventure. Perhaps that time spent was needed to keep my feet, as Bilbo said. “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
So what’s the metaphysical point of the physical? There’s dangerous business to attend. If God is in the business of restoration–indeed the point of Rivendells–perhaps then, so should I be busy in that most dangerous business. All things new.
“And He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ And He also said, ‘Write this down! For these words are trust-worthy and true.'” Revelation 21:5
What are you in the process of making new? Maybe its you, yourself, that could use a makeover? Some scraping? New paint? “Therefore, if anyone in is Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold! The new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17.
We long for the rest and renewal of Rivendell. George MacDonald, the author of many of my favorite books and influencer of J.R.R. Tolkien (the creator of Rivendell) penned this anagram by scrambling the letters of his name, thus making a life motto that has encouraged me every time I see it. –CORAGE! GOD MEND AL–
Where is your personal Rivendell? What should you do with the time that is given you? Your dangerous business may start on your knees like mine did. Don’t worry, dear heart. Courage! What looks like scraped paint and old larva shells may not be what they seem. Open your eyes. He is making all things new. The old has passed away. Everyone needs their own personal Rivendell. Find it.
–CORAGE. GOD MEND AL– Anagram of George MacDonald