In J. R. R. Tolkien’s series The Lord of the Rings, Denethor II holds the place of Ruling Steward over the kingdom of Gondor. In this fictional work, stewards were historically representatives for and counselors to the King of Gondor. For some generations the title of Steward had been passed down, father to son, until it rested on Denethor II. For many generations also, the throne of Gondor sat empty and the Stewards of Gondor reigned in their stead until the rightful heir should return to claim the throne.
Interestingly, the stewards, even when ruling in the king’s absence, did not sit on the throne. Rather they sat on a simple black chair placed symbolically beneath the throne. It was a constant reminder to the Steward and the citizens of Gondor that the Steward was under the authority of the King.
I don’t want to spoil the story if you haven’t read it, so I’ll just say, in the lengthy absence of a king, the stewards had grown accustomed to power and were no longer ruling the kingdom as if it belonged to someone else. Denethor II was not entirely willing to relinquish his authority when the King returned, even though he continued to occupy the black chair.
I relate to Denethor II.
A couple of years ago I helped another homeschool family by teaching math to one of their children. My kids saw me teaching him with unfailing patience and kindness, drawing him to the point of understanding with gentleness and creativity. Eventually one of them asked why I couldn’t teach them like they were someone else’s child.
It’s a little different as a mama because I have authority over my own children in a way I don’t with someone else’s child. But my authority is that of a steward — not a master — a steward who is subject to the King of kings just like all the other servants, but has the added responsibility of caring for the people and property in the his domain.
I would like to say I became a different mama as I recognized my kids really belong to God. But a more honest statement would be, I began to be a better mama.
There are plenty of days the internal battle rages between accepting my role as a steward and desiring to be queen, even though I sit in the black chair.
I get annoyed with my children on the days the desire to be queen is winning. They don’t obey my every thought, and my irritation grows. I act as if I sit on the throne.
I enter into their brokenness and offer grace on the days accepting my role as a steward wins. On those days I can see the difference between childishness and rebellion, ignorance and defiance, “can’t” and “won’t.”
On the steward days I am serving my King by caring for the people and property in his domain, and I feel the weight of responsibility that comes with that role.
The steward days are the ones where my heart worships God through my work instead of demanding my kids work to worship me. I am content in the black chair.
The steward days are the days I cultivate grace. The steward days are the days I honor my King.