Call Me Treebeard

"Ents and Huorns" | Art by gonzalokenny. Used with permission.
Call me Treebeard. Hrum, Hoom

If I lived in Middle-earth, I’d be an Ent. Like Treebeard, my motto is “Do not be hasty.” But, also like Treebeard, I might take you for a small orc and step on you if I don’t first hear your voice. I’m also cautious—if I’m going to develop a relationship, I won’t rush into it, and I prefer to ask the questions rather than reveal a whole lot about myself before I know who I’m dealing with. And to make matters worse, I’m a Christian—and not just any kind of Christian, but the slowest of all Christians—I’m Catholic. And nothing is slower than the Catholic Church at making decisions.

The language of my faith is “a lovely language, but it takes a very long time to say anything in it, because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking the time to say, and to listen to.” If you don’t believe me, go to a Catholic Mass. Or read an encyclical. Or an exhortation. Like the Ents, we take forever to make a decision—the Church will “room tum, room tum, roomty toom tum” for years and years before we change anything. I recently participated in a three-day meeting as part of a process in my diocese to re-imagine the way we “do Church” on a parish level. It was a response to declining numbers in all things Catholic because, no matter what was going on around us, we were doing the same stuff over and over, hoping for a new outcome. Many of our trees are getting sleepy and less Entish… But, getting Catholics (clergy and laypeople) to think about doing things differently—even when it’s a matter of self-preservation—is like convincing Ents to storm Isengard; even as Saruman is popping out Orcs like Pez just down the valley.

If I rush into things repeatedly, I risk spreading myself too thin, making grave mistakes, and becoming overwhelmed.

Why do we take our time in Entish fashion? Partly to make sure that, lest we be hasty, a poor decision isn’t made—for any poor decision would impact millions of people with lingering consequences. Partly because nobody likes change. However, like the Ents, once we have made up our minds to do something, we’ll move an entire forest to get it done.

The Entish qualities that my Church embody are qualities that I experience as simultaneously inhibitive and preservative. And I have them, too! We are completely frustrating—my tendency to take my time has been described as “annoying.”

I don’t like to be hasty. I am responsible for many people and I take that seriously. For me, my Enty ways aid me in persevering. If I rush into things repeatedly, I risk spreading myself too thin, making grave mistakes, and becoming overwhelmed. I can’t afford (emotionally or psychologically) to get burnt out. If I know that I have carefully, prayerfully considered things before I get involved in them, I know that I can really get behind them and fully immerse myself because I know it’s the right thing to do. Then, my resolve is indestructible and whatever it is will reach its completion if I have anything to say about it.

I can also become so absorbed in what I’m doing that I might just not notice that people or things in front of me should be attended to and may accidentally step on or over them. I’m not very tall—I can’t blame my lack of notice on being too high up to see you. I just have a bad habit of putting all of my brain power into the problem, event, or decision to the exclusion of other things.

Have I perhaps missed one or two opportunities because I took too long making a decision? Probably. Have I potentially let situations get worse by my inaction? Maybe. But, ultimately, I believe that if I’m careful and persistent, and make choices based in my best thinking and discernment, then everything will fall into place that needs to in order for the optimum outcome to occur. I shouldn’t use my slowness as an excuse to be lazy, of course—I have to be honest about my motives for taking my time. I can’t be waiting around for Entwives to come back, or the forest to wake up. I have to own my Entish qualities—good and bad—and make sure that I don’t get too big (in my own head) to pay attention to what’s around me.

Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry

Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry

Staff Writer at Area of Effect
Jen is a pastoral minister, wife, mother, ninja and writer. She loves sci-fi, superheroes, and classic literature, and prefers to share her Catholic faith through such lenses. Her book, "Comic Con Christianity" will be available from Paulist Press in Spring of 2018.
Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry

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