The air is chilly, but the sun is warming me as I sit nervously, hopeful yet also bracing for disappointment. I’ve never done this before. What if God doesn’t answer? What if I’m not ready or I’m not good enough? What if he does speak and it isn’t good? Sitting there on the side of a mountain overlooking miles of valley below, I am experiencing uncertainty, apprehension, and the feeling that I am not qualified.

Yet here I am anyway, optimistic that if this works it will change everything. What do you think of me, Father? Who am I to you? I sit, still and listening, waiting for a reply. I have never done this before. It is my first time asking the Creator of all that is good such a personal question. All my previous conversations with God over the past thirty-some years of my life haven’t really been conversations. They’ve been more monologues than dialogues. I did all the talking and he did all the listening. I would give him my list and hope we would have time to get to it.

Not this time. This time I have asked a question and I await an answer. It doesn’t take long—the distractions, I mean. Oh, look at that bird! I wonder what kind of rock this is. Wow, the clouds sure are fluffy. Re-engaging, I close my eyes and drop back to my question, God, what do you think of me? Who am I to you? My thoughts go to the epic story The Lord of the Rings and the character Aragorn. I love that story, and I love who Aragorn is in his journey of becoming. He is brave, courageous, strong, and cunning. . . . Again drifting. I suck at this! God, what do you think of me and who am I to you? The character of Aragorn invades my thoughts and my time with God again. I love how he fights for a cause larger than himself, all the while wrestling with a deep secret. I love his friends and the fellowship he is a part of. Dang it! Come on, Thompson. Back to prayer. This is serious! Stop messing around!

Too late. Time is up. I have to rejoin the ranks of the men at the retreat. Pushing up from the ground I conclude, “either God must be busy or I’m not doing it right.” Neither answer feels good. Fast-forward eight weeks. It is my fortieth birthday. Family is in town and we have had a great day. Cake, cards and presents! There among the little pile of gifts and cards is a long box—a really long box and thin. I have been dropping hints for a shotgun, and by the looks of things today might be the day. Then again, it also could be golf clubs. My dad and brother are pretty good golfers and they are always trying to buy me a better game. It hasn’t worked yet, but I always appreciate their efforts.

All the gifts are unwrapped except for this one. Obviously, it’s the BIG ONE! I truly feel a bit giddy unwrapping it. I remove the lid . . . my eyes take in what’s inside . . . And I am stunned. Suddenly I’m both in the family room of my house and back on the side of the mountain at the men’s retreat. Because gleaming up at me from the box is the Sword of Aragorn. Tears begin to swell. Warmth pours into my body. Seconds pass. No one says a word. Then my wife, Robin, breaks in. “Do you like it? I wasn’t sure which sword to get you. There were dozens to pick from. I just knew God wanted me to get you a sword. Several weeks ago he laid it on my heart. I had another one picked out but it didn’t feel right—then this one came to me on the website as an option. Is it all right? Do you like it? It’s the sword of . . .”

I already know. God has partnered with my wife to give me a sword and not just any sword. This particular sword. The Sword of Aragorn. My wife and my Father have done this: affirmed me, validated me, and invited me to see who I am. This—this—is Belovedness.

The Father has given me many, many other good gifts since he gave me the sword. But I know I’m not the only one for whom he does this. What have you gotten? How is the Father showing you who you are? The Father is at work authoring, perfecting, and rebuilding something. That something is actually a someone—you and me. The Father is building his sons into men, strong and good men who bear his image. It starts with a foundation of receiving love and advances through healing our hearts through all the means necessary for our becoming his Beloved Sons. For you see, it is Beloved Sons to whom he desires to entrust his power and authority.

Some of the lessons are hard. But that is what makes the “ceremony” of becoming so good. It is the process we, his image-bearers, must go through in order for Life to be redeemed and restored to us. And as I have shared . . . it doesn’t end there. We are then called to be his intimate allies, the peacekeepers, the courageous and compassionate, the fearless and caring—the Warriors of his kingdom, the men who know how to fight and know how to dance.

In your time alone with God:

Does the Aragorn Sword story invite you to look back at any packages you might have missed?

Is God taking you back to see, hear and engage in a moment of your past in which He didn’t get the credit for or the thank-you expression that comes after?

Also… this was a gift to show me who I was, a very important component to orientation. One of the 3 central questions we bring to God for answers…

Who Am I?

Where Am I?

What is the Good You are up to in my life, God?

How is God answering these 3 questions in your life?