As Frodo and Sam emerge from the Orc’s tower, finally within the boarders of Mordor, they survey the vast expanse of rocky terrain between them and Mount Doom, their chosen destination. It would have been several days of treacherous travel were the terrain not heaving with thousands upon thousands of Orcs and other evil creatures – the massed armies of the dark lord, Sauron. You can almost see the last drops of hope drain away from Frodo beneath his Orc-ish attire; there is no way they will make it to Mount Doom alive, the ring will doubtless find its way to Sauron and all will have been lost, he will have failed his companions, the Shire and middle Earth will be lost.
Samwise Gamgee, Frodo’s friend and companion, looks at Mount Doom, looks at the land filled with Orc armies, looks at Frodo and then says; ‘Well, lets get to the bottom of this hill for starters.’ And putting one foot in front of the other, they set out.
Not long after Sam and Frodo start to make their way forward, the armies start to empty out of Mordor clearing their way towards Mount Doom. Unbeknown to Sam and Frodo, way out West in Gondor after an incredible victory, the remainder of the Fellowship put into action a plan. They have no news of Frodo’s whereabouts or even if he is still alive. Still they know that the battle for middle earth is not yet over and the ring has not yet been destroyed, the two objectives that have shaped their every move for the last year. They know that Mordor is full of Orc armies and if Frodo and Sam are still live and anywhere near, they will never reach Mount Doom as long as Sauron regroups his strength in Mordor. They plan a diversion to draw Sauron’s attention away from his own land and to empty Mordor of his armies… just in case Frodo is there and trying to get through. They challenge Sauron to battle, certain to lose their lives in the process, and with no guarantee that their actions will be of any use to Frodo at all.
I love that every member of the fellowship knew that together they had a single purpose – to save middle earth by destroying the ring of power. However far away from each other they were, the purpose was still the same. Though things never seemed to go according to plan, at every twist and turn they had their North Star, would the choice before them help them move closer to or away from their ultimate end? I appreciate the role of people like Lord Elrond, Lady Galadriel and Gandalf who help everyone keep the big picture in view and can see how all the dots join up, when I am at my best I am most comfortable functioning like this. But there are times when like Frodo, all my strength is spent, all hope seems to have taken flight and the big dream brings despair not excitement; in those times I am glad to have a ‘Sam’ near by who’ll say, ‘well, lets get to the bottom of this hill for starters.’
Every team on a mission needs to have a clear North Star to follow, but they also need to know where to put their next step. Most of us with enough of the right kind of mentoring can find our own way if the North Star is clear, but all of us will from time to time need that friend behind us saying ‘its OK, this is the way, walk in it.’. To provide effective leadership I need to know when to be a Lady Galadriel, remind the team of its mission, its North Star so bringing courage, commitment and clarity; and when to be a Sam and give only the next step so as not to snuff out a smouldering wick. For me, to be a Sam is harder than to be a Gandalf, but I know that God’s heart in me will help me be patient and give me the wisdom to know what’s needed.
This is some of the beauty and complexity of working in teams and living in fellowship.