This summer I had the pleasure of reading the first trilogy in the fantasy series The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. The series follows the story of a man diagnosed with leprosy who is mysteriously transported to a fantasy world called The Land, where he is magically healed of his illness and faced with the task of fighting an evil sorcerer. Thomas Covenant assigns himself the title “unbeliever” as he struggles to believe in the land he was transported to as well as his ability to use magic to fight any enemy. He makes many mistakes and often falls short of what one expects of a hero.
Thomas Covenant does not believe that he is worthy to save the world, nor of being called a hero. The refrain “Beware! Outcast unclean!” echoes through his mind whenever people try to get close. He makes most of his mistakes because he is trying to push someone away, trying to make them see how unworthy he really is.
Thomas Covenant’s struggle helped me reflect over my own life and the ways in which I push people and God away because of how unworthy I felt. When looking inward it is often easy for me to find my shortcomings. I can easily point out the ways in which I have failed to live up to my ideal and despair is a tempting response for me to such reflections. The recognition of our shortcomings is an important process, and we should not ignore the significance of the ways in which we fail.
This fantasy series reminded me of the importance of forgiveness that must accompany our recognition of our imperfections. We are all sinners loved and called by God to live out our lives to the fullest. Both God and our loved ones love us because of our imperfection, not despite it. Every day each one of us has the ability to rise up to the challenge of being a hero. Every day each one of us has the ability to be forgiven and loved by those around us. Every day each one of us is asked by God to open up and accept the love that permeates everything we encounter.
In responding to his own imperfection, Thomas Covenant has the choice to respond with either despair or hope and pardoning joy. I, for one, hope to have the strength to respond with joy, forgiveness, and hope when confronted with my limitations.
Cover image “Rainy Day Inspiration :: You Must Believe In Yourself!” courtesy Flickr CC user sweetonveg, found here.