Say “Friend” and Enter

I have always been amused and challenged by the passage in Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Rings where Gandalf and his pilgrims are stymied by the door into the mines of Moria. They discovered the door and even the instructions, “Speak, friend, and enter”, but no one can figure out what word opens the door. Gimli, the dwarf, assumes the instructions mean friends will know the secret word that opens the doors.

Gandalf, who is both a scholar and wizard, tries “opening words” and spells in the languages of elves. He tries the words in different orders. He even strikes the door with staff while yelling the word for open in every language he knows. All to no avail.

In frustration Gandalf throws down his staff and silently sits before the door. Suddenly, he jumps and realizes the translation of the instructions should have been, “Say ‘friend’ and enter.” The word “friend” in the instructions over the doorway was the opening word. Gandalf speaks “mellon,” the elvish word for friend, and the doors swing open. Gandalf admits that both he and Gimli had been wrong, and that the hobbit Merry, “of all people, was on the right track.”

Hobbits have no real magic but are loyal friends. In Tolkien’s The Lord of Rings it is power of friendship, not magic, that defeats powers of evil. Relationship matters more than power.

Like Gandalf, I need to learn from hobbits. Although no scholar or lore-master, I speak the languages of a lot of movements in the church: evangelical, holiness, Calvinist, Arminian, Pentecostal, Third Wave, Quaker, Liberation Theology, Catholic, and Orthodox. And I have seen a lot of spiritual fads and trends come and go. I have heard and read a lot of prophetic proclamations of the new direction God is taking the church or the dispensation of grace we are entering.

So when I am trying to open the door to genuine knowledge of God, I have a lot information to draw upon. And like Gandalf, I sometimes think if my voice is commanding enough and loud enough, the door must open. I stand before the door and think if only I believed more, knew more, prayed more, loved more, trusted more, died more—then the door would open.

Sometimes I think someone else has the key.  I hope that the right prophetic word, right anointed pastor, or right book will open the door to spiritual progress and fulfillment.

However, when I read this story by Tolkien, I am challenged to rediscover the beauty, power, and simplicity of devotion to Jesus. Jesus, in John 15:14 told his disciples, “I have called you friends.” In the Old Testament we are told God spoke with Moses and Abraham because they had become His friends.

When exhausted by all my doing and saying, I hear Jesus say to me, “Say ‘friend’ and enter.”

About Mark

I live in Myrtle Point, Oregon with my wife Teckla and am the father of four boys. Currently I teach writing and literature at Southwest Oregon Community College. I am a graduate of Myrtle Point High School, Northwest Nazarene College, and have a Masters in English from Washington State University.
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