In his story The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien breathes life into an epic adventure that leads the reader into the world of Middle Earth. In His own story, God seeks to breathe life into an eternal adventure that leads the believer into the world of Jesus Christ. Let’s open the pages and read a little…
Much like our hero Bilbo Baggins, we believers like to be considered very respectable. Bilbo was a very well-to-do hobbit, having lived in his neighborhood “for time out of mind”. He was considered very respectable, not only because he was rich, but also because he never had any adventures or did anything unexpected.
This is us in a nutshell. We want to be well-to-do (our best life now), very respectable, and go on about our lives, not having any adventures or doing anything unexpected. Anything out of the ordinary just won’t do.
“This is a story of how a Baggins had an adventure, and found himself doing and saying things altogether unexpected. He may have lost the neighbours’ respect, but he gained – well, you will see whether he gained anything in the end.”
Could this be our story, too? Could we have an adventure and find ourselves doing and saying things altogether unexpected? But what if we lose the neighbours’ respect? What if nobody likes us? What could we possible gain?
Bilbo’s mother, Belladonna Took, was one of “three remarkable daughters of the Old Took, head of the hobbits who lived across The Water…It was often said (in other families) that long ago one of the Took ancestors must have taken a fairy wife. That was, of course, absurd, but certainly there was still something not entirely hobbitlike about them, and once in a while members of the Took-clan would go and have adventures…the fact remained that the Tooks were not as respectable as the Bagginses, though they were undoubtedly richer.”
We have a Tookish ancestry, too, you know? Our Christian forefathers were quite adventurous, even if they weren’t as respectable as we like to consider ourselves today.
“By some curious chance one morning long ago in the quiet of the world, when there was less noise and more green, and the hobbits were still numerous and prosperous, and Bilbo Baggins was standing at his door after breakfast smoking an enormous long wooden pipe that reached nearly down to his woolly toes (neatly brushed) – Gandalf came by. Gandalf! If you had heard only a quarter of what I have heard about him, and I have only heard very little of all there is to hear, you would be prepared for any sort of remarkable tale. Tales and adventures sprouted up all over the place wherever he went, in the most extraordinary fashion.”
Does Gandalf remind you of anyone? Wait until you read this…
Looking for Someone
Gandalf says to our Bilbo Baggins, “I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.”
“‘I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them,’ said our Mr. Baggins.”
God the Holy Spirit stands at our front porch and says that He is looking for someone to share in an adventure. It is an adventure of His arranging, but He’s having difficulty finding anyone interested in joining Him. Why? Are we so concerned with our dinner? Are we so concerned with being plain quiet folk? Or, could it be that we just don’t recognize Who it is that is speaking to us?
Bilbo says to Gandalf, “I don’t think I know your name?”
“Yes, yes, my dear sir – and I do know your name, Mr. Bilbo Baggins. And you do know my name, though you don’t remember that I belong to it. I am Gandalf, and Gandalf means me!”
Then Bilbo does remember the Wizard, but listen to what he remembers of him: “Gandalf, Gandalf! Good gracious me! Not the wandering wizard that gave Old Took a pair of magic diamond studs…? Not the fellow who used to tell such wonderful tales at parties…? Not the man that used to make such particularly excellent fireworks! I remember those!…Not the Gandalf who was responsible for so many quiet lads and lasses going off into the Blue for mad adventures?…I mean, you used to upset things badly in these parts once upon a time. I beg your pardon, but I had no idea you were still in business.”
What do we know (or remember) of God the Holy Spirit? Do we know of His gifts? His many works? His things? Are His stories those of times past? Are we surprised that He is still in business?
For Took’s Sake
However, God, like Gandalf, is pleased to find that we remember something about Him. So, He says to us, as Gandalf said to Bilbo, “Indeed for your old grandfather Took’s sake, and for the sake of poor Belladonna, I will give you what you asked for.”
To which we may reply, “I beg your pardon, I haven’t asked for anything!”
To which He may reply, “Yes, you have! Twice now. My pardon. I give it you. In fact I will go so far as to send you on this adventure. Very amusing for me, very good for you – and profitable too, very likely, if you ever get over it.”
If ever we get over it. If only we would get over it. Now to fast-forward a little…
Deep Places of Ancient Homes
Thirteen dwarves and one wizard now sit in Bilbo’s hobbit hole. Gandalf has marked Bilbo’s door as a place to gather for an adventure, and the company is discussing just that. The dwarves are embarking on a journey to reclaim their home and their treasure, both of which were taken from them by a dragon. “And suddenly first one and then another began to sing as they played, deep-throated singing of the dwarves in the deep places of their ancient homes; and this is like a fragment of their song…
“Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away, ere break of day,
To claim our long-forgotten gold.
The pines were roaring on the height,
The winds were moaning in the night.
The fire was red, it flaming spread;
The trees like torches blazed with light.”
The song goes on with many verses. Oh, to hear the Lord’s desire! To hear Him longing for His home and treasure!
“As they sang the hobbit felt the love of beautiful things made be hands and by cunning and by magic moving through him, a fierce and a jealous love, the desire of the hearts of dwarves. Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.”
Saints, if you have never been around others who are on this Lord’s adventure, if you have never heard their passion, their longing, their deep experience, then I invite you join us in Austin, TX, this summer. It was at just such a conference several years ago that I heard others “singing” of this home and treasure. Then something Tookish woke up inside me, and I haven’t been the same since.
All Sorts of Fun
There is a call, saints. It’s a call to share in the Lord’s adventure. It’s a call to come out of the ordinary and unto the unexpected. It’s a call to put away our life and allow the God of the universe to live His through us. And when we do, we enter the larger world of Jesus Christ. And here, there is nothing but adventure.
“There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild now, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go.”