“When did doilies and your mother’s dishes become so important to you?”
I was struck by this question the other evening as my wife and I watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The question is asked during a conversation between Gandalf the wizard and the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins.
Gandalf has challenged Bilbo to set off on an adventure with a company of dwarves. In his response, Bilbo states, “I’ll be alright. Just let me sit quietly for a moment.” Gandalf dryly replies, “You’ve been sitting quietly for far too long. Tell me, when did doilies and your mother’s dishes become so important to you? I remember a young hobbit who was always running off in search of Elves, in the woods. He’d stay out late, come home, after dark, trailing mud and twigs and fireflies. A young hobbit who would’ve liked nothing better than to find out what was beyond the borders of the Shire. The world is not in your books and maps. It’s out there.”
Needless to say, Gandalf’s persuasive words reach the heart and soul of Bilbo, who finally agrees to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. This journey is not without risks, however, and Gandalf advises Bilbo that if he returns, he most certainly will not return the same. And these predictions all come true.
I’ve come to realize that I have hobbit-like tendencies myself. If I am not careful, I will resist change every time. I will gravitate towards a risk-free existence and an adventure-less lifestyle, surrounded by my soft, comfortable, cozy doilies and dishes.
In February 2015, I will head to Russia on another ministry adventure. It will be one week longer than previous trips and take me to new, unexplored areas. I will travel a portion of the way by myself. When the new elements and twists were first proposed, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stretch myself one more time. But when I realized I was reaching for a comfortable armchair, I knew I had to say, “Yes.” The intimidating presence of fear and concern was all the more reason to accept the new challenge before I turned into a hobbit.
Along the same line, I have to guard against the tendency to accept risks myself, but want to shield my children from danger. I was curious to read, “The Cult of Kiddie Danger,” where the author points out what has become America’s newest religion, one based on the belief that children are in constant danger from everyone and everything.
If I spare myself and my family members from danger, change, and stretching experiences, how will I ever grow? Scripture is pretty clear that God uses trials, tests, and suffering as catalysts to jumpstart our growth process and to produce deeper faith and character in our lives.
Romans 5:3–4 – Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
James 1:2–4 – Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
If I want to avoid becoming a hobbit, I need to step out of my front door and accept the adventure that God brings my way. I need to leave my comfortable existence, embrace change, and allow God to transform my character.