Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2)
Over the past three weeks, we have been dissecting J.R.R. Tolkien’s short story, Leaf by Niggle, and unpacking how this remarkable parable gives us an eternal perspective for our work.
But how can we maintain the perspective we have gained over the past few weeks? How do we “renew our minds” as Paul commands in Romans 12:2? Through study of the Word and fellowship with other believers.
Immediately after Paul commands his readers to renew their minds, he writes a long exposition on the value of the Body of Christ (see Romans 12:3-8). Why? Because Paul knew that community is essential to renewing our minds with eternal truths.
To his credit, J.R.R. Tolkien knew this too. Throughout much of his career, Tolkien met on a near-weekly basis with a group of Christian friends famously known as “the Inklings.” The group included some of the world’s greatest minds, including Charles Williams, Hugo Dyson, Owen Barfield, and most notably, C.S. Lewis. Nearly every Tuesday throughout the 1930s and 40s, you could find these friends gathered in the back corner of an Oxford pub where they would drink a pint of beer and provide feedback on each others’ work.
We know that at one of these gatherings, Tolkien brought up the topic of his neighbor’s “lopped and mutilated” tree and his fear that he would die before finishing his own “internal Tree”—his life’s work, The Lord of the Rings. Shortly after that meeting, Tolkien penned Leaf by Niggle.
Was it the Inklings who inspired him to write the parable? We don’t know for sure. But we do know that time and time again, this group of Christian friends (especially Lewis, who is credited as the “chief midwife” to The Lord of the Rings) renewed Tolkien’s mind and encouraged him to persevere in his work.
Without regular communion with other believers to refresh their eternal perspectives, Tolkien may have never completed The Lord of the Rings, and Lewis may have never finished The Chronicles of Narnia. As we work and create in this world, it takes regular communion with our brothers and sisters in Christ to renew our minds of the truths we’ve explored in this series and continually “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen” (2 Corinthians 4:18).
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