J.R.R. Tolkien: Lord of the Rings. You are entertaining and imaginative, creating whole new worlds around yourself. Well loved, you have a whole league of imitators, none of which is quite as profound as you are. Stories and songs give a spark of joy in the middle of your eternal battle with the forces of evil.
I began to read LOTR in the summer before my 14th birthday. It remade my life. Since I was currently in my church-orphan phase, I didn't have much to keep me spiritually anchored. Tolkien was a proto-evangelist to me, like John the Baptist, a reference to whom he re-worked into his own mythology:
I'm getting my gear out and going over it, slowly. Getting ready for another summer's adventure. Saturday, I wore my boots for the second time this year. They've got some nicks and creases in them. I've really put them through some rough treks. But I figure they'll last for a while longer, with new insoles.
This is only the third pair of camping boots I've ever owned. I got a used pair of my dad's old workboots when I was a sophomore in high school, and wore them till they fell apart (14 years). Then when my son turned 11 and joined Boy Scouts, we got matching hiking boots. We both wore them till they fell apart (mine lasted 11 years). These I got in the Spring of 1997, so they're only eight years old, heading out on their ninth trek. Lotsa wear left.
I take care of my good camping gear. It lasts me a long time, especially since I don't outgrow it any more (well, there for a while, I almost "outgrew" my pack's hip belt, but I'm a little more svelte these days). I see a parallel between my camping gear and spirituality.
When we're young, we go through stuff fast. Not just 'cause we're hard on it, but because we grow so fast. In spiritual terms, we chase after this fad, grab that experience, are ravished by that book. But there comes a time when we don't grow as fast. Then, what we've trained with, we're stuck with. The habits of life we've developed (even when we weren't looking) are what we've got to carry us through. So they'd better be good ones, 'cause you don't want to go buying new ones all the time.
I find that many of my spiritual habits are good and hardy and will last my time. But there are gaps, things I wish I had acquired the taste for or the discipline to keep up. They come hard for me now -- and since I'm not growing and developing hyper-fashion, I have to work at acquiring these habits and relationships. I feel like I've gone on a major backpacking trip and left something behind that would really be good to have. So I'm making do, but it ain't always easy.
My wife and I feel the need to pray together more. We never really learned how, despite the fact that we both pray alone a lot, and we're both pretty mature Christians -- and despite the fact that I teach people how to pray, for cryin' out loud. But I struggle to share that time with her. It's not that I can't do it -- I just never got comfortable doing it. So that's the new thing to be learned, and I'll be getting spiritual blisters and chafes until I acquire that piece of metaphysical gear.
What was it Marlowe said? Stand, Faustus, and sound the depth of that thou wilt profess. Or something like that. Anyway, I think I'd be more ready for this phase of my life if I'd spent more time learning how to be at peace in my own skin and less time mastering the skills of the pastoral rodeo circuit.