“Epic” by John Eldridge is an abstract sized version of his full length novel, “Waking the Dead.” What makes “Epic” unique is that he’s arranged the book into four acts. Each act takes a part of the hero journey and related the spiritual lessons to many of the famous heroes in literature: Frodo, Maximus, Neo, and others.
While I liked the fleshed out version of Eldridge’s view on God’s involvement in our heroic journeys, this condensed version was a good refresher but the four acts arrangement made me see Eldridge’s ideas in a different light.
As a Christian and a reader sometimes these two worlds meld and I can see some spiritual themes while I’m reading secular works and sometimes the two worlds are separate. I’m ok with that. What Eldridge does
is challenge the notion that God cannot be found in the heroic journey of any tale. Instead, he seems to argue that God is the basis for all stories ergo we can find God in these quests if we just look hard enough.
One encouraging peace I enjoyed was in “Act Three”. This is in the low point of the journey. Frodo doesn’t think he can make it to Mt. Doom. Maximus is stabbed before his final fight. Things look grim for our hero. The same goes with our spiritual journey. We have an adversary, Satan, who is doing his best to make sure we don’t complete our quest. We don’t often acknowledge the role the devil plays in our “stories” but he’s the reason why bad things happen. It’s up to us to decide what to do once those bad things happen.
Just like with our heroes, when things seems hopeless sometimes the sheer act of continuing anyways gets us to focus outward instead of inward. We suddenly recognize the people who can help us or the path becomes crystal clear as to what needs to be done. Once we remove ourselves from the equation we allow God to become an active player in our story. This doesn’t mean everything will be perfect in the end. Frodo loses a finger and still has his wound from Weathertop. Maximus never makes it out of the arena. Were their journeys in vain? Hardly. Sometimes the journey is the point. And sometimes we won’t know the meaning in what’s happening until we get where we need to go.