I've been enjoying the Hobbit again, this time with my youngest son for the first time. Maybe it is stage of life, or coincidental to what I'm currently teaching through from the bible, but I'm seeing so many connections between the life of Bilbo Baggins and the call on ordinary people like us to wake up to the big promise of the kingdom.
The Bilbo we meet early in the story may have hairy feet and three breakfasts, but in every other respect he mirrors our lives - a love of comfort; a fear of strangers and of the outside world. The word "adventure” is not one he would use, that kind of thing is for others. For the Hobbit there is the satisfied pattern of a familiar, easy life.
Bilbo doesn't even know that he has a hidden longing for adventure built deep inside of him, it's in his Tookish side, in his blood, it's what he was really made for. Listening to the Dwarves sing their deep, mysterious songs of far off places, “Something Tookish woke up inside him and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine trees and the waterfalls, explore the caves and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick” Tolkien describes it as a fierce magic moving through him, awakening him to his true destiny.
I'm Bilbo Baggins, you are too. He is the epitome of our longed for simple, domesticated lives. One mundane day can follow another with quiet efficiency, whilst inside our spirits die. Risk, adventure, exploration become so high stakes that we stifle the desire under the heavy grey blanket of bland living, choosing instead to get our kicks in a fantasy world, through the TV, books or movies. Why else do we still send aging Attenborough to explore on our behalf, or enlist D list celebs to take our vicarious thrills and terrors and swallow them whole for us? Why else do we waste night after night playing Call of Duty with the lights out just to create some tension in our lives?
Most of us live out our days, feeling we ought to stir ourselves, leave our warm, cosy indent in the sofa and head off into the sunset, but the desire is so deeply hidden that the impetus only emerges through necessity or a realisation of calling. Bilbo breaks free into his destiny only because his calling literally comes knocking at his door, awakening the magic and leading him out, still against his better judgement
Gandalf's prophetic description of the nervous Hobbit is true of us, "There is a lot more in him than you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself”
We were made for more than this. The big story of the bible speaks of a Saviour who knocks on the door of our settled lives and calls us out to join a new reality, an adventure far beyond the scope of our narrow confines.
The realisation that awakens is one which propels us to engage in a mission to the ends of the earth, starting in our own street. It will cost us everything we have, if we go after it, we will never be the same again, it will draw on the ordinariness of our lives and redeem all that we are into the process.
Even this week in Romania, I have seen this reality dawning in the lives of my travelling companions. Not professional explorers, missionaries or adventurers, but a Market Research guy and a Town Planner, stepping forward with all their life skills and experiences and leading others into freedom! Imagine what God can do with the life of an IT guy, a plumber or a stay at home mum, if we will hear the call and walk with him in adventure?
There is a lot more in you than you guess, you will only find out how much on the journey. There is only really one way to discover what you were made for, who you were made for, the mission you are called to serve on. Can you hear the sharp knock at the door? Will you leave the sofa, lay down your walking stick and all the comfort it represents, pick up a sword and head out of the door?