Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Hobbit

            I was driving to the flower shop today to pick up onion transplants when I heard a line from a song that really stuck with me.  It was something about ‘not knowing how the journey will end.’  And it hit me that that’s exactly what has always scared me about life . . . not knowing where things are headed or what’s around the corner.  To me, everything feels doomed, like tragedy and heartache are always the next stop in life.  And so I guess I live with a constant, deep sense of anxiety and discouragement.  Always waiting for the next bad thing. 
            And I began to think, Why do I always have to think that ‘not knowing how this journey will end’ means ‘tragedy and trouble are up ahead’?  Why can’t it mean ‘exciting, unexpected adventures and surprises await you’? 

Why can’t I look forward into the hazy, foggy future with ‘Oh, cool, maybe something will happen that’s beyond my wildest dreams’ instead of always with ‘Oh no!’?  How different life would feel if I looked forward to the future instead of dreaded it. 
            (I think this comes with a broken home life.  Things just don’t feel secure and carefree after watching your family break apart.  Several times.) 
            I wish I could feel the way that some people do, the lightness and optimism and the feeling that life is generally good but has moments of bad.  I, on the other hand, feel like it’s mostly negative but with moments of positive.  My family and my faith are the only really bright spots.  And I live to (hopefully) reflect Christ to others.  The rest is just . . . there.  And I have to look hard to find the positives in each day, to find the joys.
            A couple months ago, I asked God a question (from my post 250 Questions to Ask God at  I asked Him what movie character I remind Him of.  And for the longest time, I heard no reply.  But then I was watching a movie this past weekend, and I found the movie character that I think I most closely resemble: a Hobbit.  Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. 
            Like him, I just want to stay at home and live a common, simple, uneventful life.  I just want to take care of my family, read, do my house work, and tend to my garden.  I don’t want changes because they are usually not for the better.  And I would have done exactly what Bilbo did when Gandalf invited him on an adventure.  I would have been like, “No, no, no.  No adventure.  I’m fine where I am.”  And like Bilbo, I often feel small and easily overlooked.  Unimportant.  I am not a bold, feisty, drunk-on-life dwarf.  I am a quiet, uneventful Hobbit who can easily get lost in a crowd.  
            However, you’ll remember (if you’ve seen the movie) that Bilbo’s curiosity got the best of him.  And he ran after the dwarves, ready to enter the unknown.  To embark on a dangerous journey.  He wanted to have an adventure.  And while he didn’t know what was around the corner, he was willing to face it.  He didn’t let the fear of the unknown hold him back, even if it meant that he might not make it back home again.  But he willingly took that risk so that he could have a chance to live big for once in his life. 
            For each of us, life includes times when we get to rest on the comfortable, level plains (the easy times), and times when we get to experience the exciting and wonderful mountaintops (the high points of life), and times when we have to travel through the difficult and dark valleys (the hard times).  And I wish that life were full of the plains and the mountaintops.  I would love nothing more than to live a comfortable life with some random, wonderful, glorious high points thrown in to liven it all up. 
            But on this fallen planet, we are not meant to live in those places.  I think most of our time is spent trudging through the deep and dark valleys.  Most of us are unwillingly dragged from our comfortable Hobbit homes and forced to embark on an unexpected journey.  One full of troubles and heartache and struggle.  In fact, like Bilbo, we Christians are guaranteed that this journey will include dangers.  It will not be easy.  There will be persecution and temptations and tribulations.  And there is a chance that we will not ever get to return to that “comfortable place” again.  We may always be in a deep, dark valley.  Because we are on a fallen planet.  And the forces of evil that surround us are bent on defeating us in any way they can. 
            Yes, we have to walk through the hard times and face the dangers and the opposition.  And we will go through times that, like Bilbo, we feel unimportant and overlooked, wondering if our contribution to the battle matters at all.  We will feel like everyone else is doing better than us, like everyone else is braver, stronger, more important.  We will struggle with wanting to give up, to curl up in our comfortable beds and pull the covers over our eyes because we don’t feel that we have it in us to keep going.  We will desperately long for something different – for the plains and the mountaintops - and we will wonder if there is something wrong with us that we are ending up in so many valleys.   
            Bilbo didn’t know what was ahead when he set out on the journey.  He just knew that it would be uncomfortable, dangerous, and that he might not live through it.  But he willingly entered a very long, dark, dangerous valley.  And it was in the valley that he found out what he was made of, that his character was tested and refined.  He learned what he was capable of when pushed to his limits.  He didn’t settle for the simple, easy life.  He wanted more.  And I guess that’s what God wants for us, even if we don’t want it for ourselves.  And that’s why we end up in the valleys more than we want. 
            In life, there are just enough mountaintops – enough good moments - to keep us going, to keep our faith from withering, and to give us hope and strength to face the hard times.  (But we need to be conscientious about remembering them.  This is crucial during the hard times.)  And there will be enough plains to give us a chance to catch our breaths.  But it is in the valleys that we find out what we are really made of. 
            It is in the valleys that our spiritual character is developed.  This is where the greatest spiritual growth happens.  Because the deep growth comes through the hard times, the times of struggle.  These are the times we wrestle with our faith and our views of God and self.  These are the ways God refines us.  This is where we learn what it really means to live as Christ did, to be content, to let go of pride, to seek God’s righteousness and Kingdom above all, to love sacrificially, to focus on what really matters in life. 
            And what really matters in life is not really this life at all.  What really matters is eternity.  And eternity is being shaped by how we live our lives now.  But it’s not shaped as much by how many mountaintops, plains, or valleys we go through in life.  It is shaped more by how we journey through them.  Because that is where the spiritual battles take place.  And the spiritual battles shape our eternity.  And as I said, the greatest spiritual battles take place in the valleys.  And so I can’t really despise the valleys.  I do not regret the hard times.  Because I can honestly say that my greatest spiritual growth happens in the valleys.  And I know that this will greatly impact my eternity for the better. 
            Bilbo went through a lot of trials and pain in his journey, like many of us who face more valleys than mountaintops.  But what makes our journey different than Bilbo’s is that we do indeed know how our journey ends.  We are going to make it Home.  So I guess I don’t really need to be afraid of “not knowing how the journey ends.”  Because I know that it ends in Heaven.  Eternal rest with Him.  And just knowing that this is how it all ends will get me through a lifetime of valleys. 
            We don’t have to fear the hard times of this life.  We can face them with confidence, taking comfort in the fact that pain won’t last forever.  Someday God will make all things new.  And He will work all these trials and heartaches into something good.  He has promised that for those of us who love Him. 
            And when we feel small and insignificant, wondering if we are making any difference at all, we need to remember that God has a much different perspective than we do.  And we will never really know the impact we have had on His kingdom and on others until we reach the end of this journey and the beginning of the next One, where our spiritual and eternal rewards will be waiting for us.  All we need to worry about is that we keep doing our best for His glory, no matter how “little” our job and our role is.    
            And when we feel alone and overlooked, we need to remember that He has promised to never leave us nor forsake us.  He is watching over us, sustaining us, and guiding us even in the long, dark valleys.  He is with us the whole way, until we reach that last and greatest mountaintop: Home!
            As I journey through this lifetime, I’m learning to be okay with the long, dark valleys for now.  I’m learning to be okay with feeling small and overlooked by the world.  Because I know Who’s watching over me and walking with me.  I know Who sees my heart.  And I know where this journey will end.  Thank You, God!  Honestly, I’m okay being a Hobbit.