For those of you unfamiliar with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, let me fill you in on the romantic journey of the most honest and courteous knight of King Arthur’s round table. Imagine this: King Arthur and his court are about to start their New Year’s feast when an impressive knight, entirely green including his horse, rides into the hall. He says something along the lines of “remain calm.” He holds an axe in one hand. “I don’t wanna fight.” He challenges the court to a “Christmas game”, to strike him once with the axe with the condition that in a year he must strike back. So Arthur rises to the challenge, but Sir Gawain volunteers to take his place. He swings the ax and slices the Green Knights head off clean. The Green Knight picks up his head and rides off saying, “See ya in a year”. Soon, Gawain must brave the adventure to the Green Chapel where he will take a blow to the neck, but not before he faces temptation, three times by a beautiful lady in the Green Castle. In the end, Gawain acquires a green girdle from Lady Bertilak; she claims the girdle will protect him. He, fearing his life, hides the girdle from the master of the house, Sir Bertilak, to whom he has promised all that he gains during his stay in the Green Castle.
The day has finally arrived and Sir Gawain ties a girdle around his waist and goes to meet the Green Knight. After all is said and done, Sir Gawain comes out of it with only a small wound on his neck. “You’ve been punked,” says GK who it turns out is also Sir Bertilak. “This was all a test on your integrity.” Sir Gawain is overwhelmingly ashamed. “Haha, don’t worry about it,” says GK, “At least you’re not a womanizer. You did all this to protect your life. And besides you confessed, so I forgive you. It’s all forgotten.” But Sir Gawain says, “I suck at life. I can’t believe I did that. I’m a coward.” He goes back to Arthur’s court where he is greeted with kisses and pats on the shoulder while he broods, “I’m such a loser. I can never forgive myself.” And then they all laugh, eat and drink and wear green girdles around their necks as symbols of Sir Gawain’s adventure.
What’s the point?
Sir Gawain is suppose to be the most humble and honest of the Round Table. Everyone respects him and praises him and when they do he responds, “I’m not that great.” He sets the bar up pretty high for all the Knights at the Round Table including himself. This is not a bad thing. The problem is that his identity rests solely on his ability not to fall into temptation. This is why he cannot accept the grace offered to him by the Green Knight when he fails. His disappointment comes from the fact that he lost his integrity.
Perhaps, this has happened to you. You made a mistake and return to God with head hung low and a wound on your neck. And he says to you, “I do not keep a record of wrongs. My love never fails. You are clean despite all odds because of what Christ has done.” And you respond, “I can’t believe I did that. I can never forgive myself.” Don’t think for a second, that this response is a humble one. Instead, step down from your high horse and accept the grace of God. Let him welcome you into his arms and teach you to walk in his ways.
I leave you with the following quotes which I feel apply to my life. I hope that you find truth here as well. To read them in context, just click the quote.
1: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”
2: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”