I recently enjoyed a relaxing evening with friends watching the newly-released movie, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” While there were many scenes and sayings in the movie that caught my attention, one dialogue in particular has stayed with me since that time. The conversation takes place in Bilbo Baggins’ hobbit hole as Gandalf challenges him with the opportunity to go on an adventure.
In this scene, following a dwarf invasion of his home, Bilbo states to Gandalf, “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 been thinking about my own dishes and doilies since then. No, not my real dishes and doilies. Rather, I have been contemplating those things in my life represented by a hobbit’s dishes and doilies. What items of comfort and security, whether tangible or intangible, do I hold tightly, hoping nothing unsettling happens to them? What adventure might be waiting for me that I quietly avoid as I crawl back into my hobbit hole? What challenge might God have for me on the horizon that I ignore by simply staying busy doing good but mundane things?
Not every life is full of adventure. Not every day is full of breath-taking surprises or unexpected opportunities. In fact, most of life is made up of the ordinary. And that’s OK. But I am suspicious that all too often my life is ordinary because I like it that way. It is safe. It is predictable. It is comfortable. It doesn’t ask more of me than I know I can give. It’s my dishes and doilies – nice, pretty things that stay in one place and require nothing more than an occasional dusting or washing. I like my life that way. Nice. Pretty. Stable. Just in need of an occasional dusting or cleaning up. Nothing daring. Nothing scary. Just safe.
For the last few months-(a few years, actually) – I have been experiencing a nudging out of my hobbit hole. No, Gandalf has not appeared on my doorstep and no dwarfs have invaded my home for a party. Nevertheless, this gnawing sense of nudging has not gone away. Timidly I have tested the waters a bit to see if this journey is one I should really take. Like Bilbo, I am not sure what this adventure will hold. Like Bilbo, I am not qualified or prepared. Like Bilbo, I am certain to discover some aspects of this experience will teach me lessons that will change me. And like Bilbo, I have finally decided I need to step out of my hobbit hole and embark on this journey to see where it will take me. So with this in mind, I have made a decision and registered to attend the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference in North Carolina this May.
Now it is true that attending a writer’s conference is not that big of a deal. People do it all the time. I am looking forward to this opportunity to learn, to grow, to stretch myself in new ways. But for me, there is more to this decision. You see, I have been sitting quietly for far too long. I need to overcome my timidity and be like that young hobbit Gandalf described – running off in search of elves (writing elves, that is), coming home after dark trailing mud and twigs and fireflies (or conference notes, fresh ideas and new mentors), and liking nothing better than finding out what is beyond my borders. And although I have no idea what this new adventure might hold, I am quite certain that, just as Gandalf remarked, I will most certainly come home a changed person. So look out, Bilbo, I am right behind you, ready to see a new world out there I have never seen before – and I can’t wait!