In this final section of the interpretative guide, gain insight into some of the themes woven through the story.
Exploring Important Themes
Pride and Humility
The paired concepts of pride and humility comprise the major theme of The Scroll of Remembrance series. While most people think of pride as arrogance, the Bible (and this book series) defines pride much more broadly. Pride is thinking too much about oneself and not thinking enough about God. Pride can be thinking too highly of oneself (arrogance) or focusing on thoughts that are self-loathing (insecurity). Arrogance and insecurity are essentially two sides of the same coin of pride. Simply put, pride is being at the center of one’s own thoughts. It is forgetting about God, being self-centered, and selfish (Psalm 10:4). When Rom is in Lithown, he thinks about how he doesn’t like being in the city. He stews in his thoughts about how he’s been wronged and plots his revenge for his wounds. This is an example of pride as self-focus —not necessarily arrogant or boastful thinking. There are times when Rom is arrogant, especially in Julat after his success in winning the red ruby in the Cavern of Contest. This arrogance is an example of pride.
In this way, pride is the root of all sin. Pride caused Adam and Eve to sin in the Garden of Eden. Satan used pride to tempt Jesus. Doubt, lust, people-pleasing, harshness, selfishness, and envy manifest themselves in many ways in the book’s characters, and most are rooted are in the self-centeredness that is pride.
The opposite of pride is humility. Humility is not making self-effacing statements or thinking negative thoughts about oneself (that’s actually insecurity). Humility is thinking more about God and less about oneself. The best expressions of humility are Jesus’ statement to God, “not my will but yours be done” and “Thank you, Father.” Submission and gratitude are the fullest expressions of humility and the antidotes to pride.
If pride is the root of all sin, humility is the chief virtue. Jesus began his public teaching with the affirmation, “Blessed are the poor in spirit [humble], for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
When Rom accepts that Rohka led him to Lithown, even when it involved suffering, Rom has embraced humility. We also see Rom embrace humility when he asks Rohka for help (prayer), repents of his arrogance in Julat, and especially when Rom rejects people-pleasing and worldly wisdom. When Rom chooses Rohka, he is expressing humility.
It is extremely difficult to write God into a fictional story as a character, but I take great encouragement in the fact that God presents himself in parables including as the judge in the parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18) or the dishonest manager in the parable of the shrewd manager (Luke 16). In both parables, Jesus uses a fortiori (or qal wa-homer) arguments: If these questionable characters represent God and act this way, how much more will an infinitely perfect, holy, and loving God act in similar but better ways?
Rohka represents the Holy Spirit. The fact that he is usually outside of Rom, rather than dwelling in him, means Rohka as a picture of the Spirit is not completely accurate. But as a sign pointing to the Spirit, Roka shows that the Spirit empowers, guides, corrects, and encourages believers on their spiritual journeys. Rohka is also intended to honestly acknowledge that humans’ interactions with the Spirit are at times confusing. Sometimes the Spirit is silent when Christians want Him to speak. Sometimes it can feel like He has abandoned Christians in their time of need. The a fortiori argument would say, if this fictional bird can be kind, powerful, and communicative how much more will the actual Spirit be? Understanding this truth transcends the questionable aspects of how the Spirit is represented by various signs in the book.
The other animals reflect different interactions with the Spirit. Some character’s experience of the Spirit feels very tangible, like a bird or dog or cat who accompanies them on their journey. Other people’s experience of the Spirit is more hidden. Emma’s healing powers come to her from the Spirit. She does not have an animal that represents the Spirit. This shows Emma’s interactions with the Spirit are more covert, mysterious, and hidden. Even Rom sometimes forgets that Rohka is with him, highlighting that Christians do not always remember the Spirit’s presence with them.
Throughout the book different people have different “magical” abilities—some create fire, produce light, heal, appear as mighty warriors—representing the same Spirit manifesting himself in different gifts in different people (1 Corinthians 12). Because The Scroll of Remembrance is told from Rom’s point of view, his experiences with Rohka are most often mentioned.
But a major theme of the book is that the greatest gift (along with Jesus) given by God is his Spirit, who is God’s empowering presence with believers always.
A third theme throughout the book series is how God speaks through His Word. The Bible does contain rules and laws that are meant to be obeyed. But the Bible does not just contain rules and laws, it is the living and active Word of God through which God is constantly speaking (Hebrews 4:12-13). Jesus asks the Sadducees about a text written centuries before their time saying, “Have you not read what God said to you?” (Matthew 22:31). The Bible does not merely inform readers what happened in history. God speaks through it.
Rom’s scroll reflects that truth. The stories on Rom’s scroll are not about him, but they are for him. His situation is not identical to the ones on the scroll. But there is a sense in which his story parallels the ones on the scroll. Sometimes there are literal connections. For example, Cindropolis is built on the ruins of Arritu. But usually the connections are “in spirit.” Just like John the Baptist is not literally Elijah, Karsa is not literally the City of the Forge. But as John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah, so Karsa is one in spirit with the City of the Forge which both represent the idolatry of technology. Once the connections are realized, then the story speaks to Rom and his situation. When Peytos is told that he is the King’s beloved, it rescues him from his wayward actions fueled by doubts about his future. Because Rom is trapped in the Caves by doubts fueled by the goat’s deception, he hears the word “beloved” spoken to him. Peytos’ name means “beloved,” Rom’s doesn’t. But Rom understands that he is also beloved, which becomes the key to his rescue from the dungeons of doubt.
Some genres in the Bible, however, are more straight forward in their application. New Testament epistles, which are written to instruct Christians on how to live lives worthy of the kingdom, don’t require much work to see the spiritual connection to life today. Likewise, when Rom is in Julat his scroll contains a paraphrase of the verse “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). There is not much interpretive work necessary. Rom is being arrogant about his jewel and Rohka opposes him.
Throughout Rom’s journey, he receives pieces of spiritual armor meant to represent the armor listed in Ephesians 6. In Passage to the House of Power Rom receives four of the six pieces: the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness and the sword of the Spirit.
Two of the pieces, the shield and the helmet, fall from the sky when Rom calls for them. This represents the fact that our spiritual armor is God’s armor. Ephesians 6:11 calls it the “armor of God,” indicating the armor belongs to God (as in Isaiah 59:17, the likely background for Ephesians 6) and comes from God. The fact that Rom cannot access his armor in the caves, for example, represents the fact that being imprisoned in our doubts can keep us from being able to make use of the armor God provides.
Rom’s ability to use his armor, his spiritual gift of speaking, and his Shadom are all tied to the Spirit. When Rom quenches the Spirit through sin, his gifts don’t work or don’t work correctly. For example, when Rom attacks the Iron Giant with his shield of faith, it turns red from his anger, indicating that trying to use faith to harm another person is not from the Lord. At times Rom’s deception and lies keep him from being able to use his power. Likewise, when Rohka opposes Rom, Rom cannot summon his shield or helmet in his fight against Rohka.
There are also important reminders, including the truth that Satan cannot use God’s armor to harm Christians. When the White Power in the dungeons of Cindropolis tries to get Rom to stab himself in the leg with his Shadom, it automatically retracts. Instead, Satan tries to disarm Christians through sin or deception so that he can successfully attack.
The Power of Words
In addition to the spiritual armor, Rom is given the ability to blow waves of force using the word “Ischuro.” This is an allusion to Jesus speaking the words “I Am” (John 18:6), which knocks people to the ground. When Christians use their spiritual gifts to speak, they can be like those who speak the very words of God (1 Peter 4:11). In the case of Emma, her words have the power to heal, just like Jesus spoke words that healed people. Avi not only understands the ancient language, by speaking the word to Rom, Avi gives him the power to read the scroll for himself. An unnamed woman in Karsa speaks words and fire appears, an allusion to James 3, a passage emphasizing the power of words both for good and evil.
All of these examples are meant to highlight the power of the words we speak. We often cannot see the impact of the words that come out of our mouths, but words wound, build up, condemn, destroy, encourage, teach and more. Words don’t just describe things, they do things. Indeed, the “pen is mightier than the sword,” but in The Scroll of Remembrance the “pen is a sword,” showing that words have power.
Prayer and Guidance from God
Rom’s engagement with Rohka is meant to model an aspect of prayer. Often Rohka helps Rom without Rom ever consciously asking for assistance. Other times, however, Rom pleads with Rohka for help, such as with his grapevine or in the caves. The pleading brings Rohka into the action.
Rom has trouble believing that this bird actually understands him. Sometimes it is difficult to believe that God hears our prayers and is paying attention to our lives. Rohka refuses to let Rom manipulate him into giving simple “yes” or “no” answers. Likewise, God often engages with Christians through prayer in a way that stretches our faith, develops patience, but also can be confusing at times.
One of the primary ways in which prayer manifests itself in the story relates to guidance. At times Rohka very distinctly leads Rom. This is evident when Rohka leads Rom to Lithown and seemingly leaves him there to fend for himself for a season. At other times, Rom makes a decision, like going to the Valley of Salt, and Rohka goes along with him. In hindsight, Rom can look back and see the value of going to Cindropolis, but he didn’t get there on the basis of asking Rohka to guide him. This is often the case in our lives as well.
The final scene of the book connects the themes of prayer and guidance with the theme of pride and humility. When Rom finally lets go of his own desires for power and success, he yields himself to Rohka’s leading. As a result, he receives the gift of hearing Rohka speak more directly to him, promising to guide him. One of the great blessings of humility is that it moves us out of the center of things in our own lives so that God’s power and guidance can lead us to places of great blessings and then finally home.