Wednesday, January 15, 2014

An Unexpected Party (The Hobbit Chapter 1)

Welcome to my first every other Wednesday installment where I provide my spiritual reflections on The Hobbit. Before I start, I would like to put some disclaimers out. These are my personal reflections. They are not the textbook analysis of what each chapter means, but instead how certain sections struck me or made me feel. This will also not be a thorough reflection on every section of every chapter. I will address sections that spoke to me. I have to admit I was nervous starting these posts. I was afraid that I would read a whole chapter of The Hobbit and have no more than five words to say about it. Thankfully, with Chapter 1 at least, that was not the case.

The mere description of Bilbo's hobbit-hole was enough to make me pause and reflect on my own "hobbit-hole." Like Bilbo, my family is blessed to live in a beautiful house complete with "panelled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs." We also have "bedrooms, bathrooms, cellars, pantries (lots of these), wardrobes (he had whole rooms devoted to clothes), kitchens, dining rooms." However, do I have too much? If God said to me, sell all of this and your house, how would I respond? Would it be a struggle for me like the rich young man in Mark 10:17-31?

Then, after a brief description of Bilbo's parents (and hobbits in general), an unexpected visitor arrives. We know this visitor as Gandalf, and in this particular scene he seems to be a Christ-figure. Bilbo is very hospitable to the stranger, much more than I would have been, but that quickly changes when Gandalf invites him to go on an adventure. What would I have said or done had I been in Bilbo's shoes? Would I have accepted his invitation to adventure? Perhaps, a better question...What do I say to God when He asks me to go on an adventure with Him? Am I willing to step out of my comfort zone and follow Him? Would I have been so willing to drop my nets on the shore like Peter, Andrew, James and John in Mark 1:16-20?

Bilbo, clever hobbit that he is, points Gandalf elsewhere in hopes of being rid of him. "You might try over The Hill or across The Water." This reminds me of Moses and the Burning Bush in Exodus 3 and 4. God gave Moses a job to do (or an adventure to go on if you'd like to look at it that way), but Moses kept coming up with excuses for why he couldn't and in Exodus 4:13 said, "If you please, my Lord, send someone else!" How often am I like Moses or Bilbo in turning down adventures out of fear and not wanting to put myself on the line?

Lastly, Biblo tells Gandalf, "Sorry I don't want any adventures, thank you. Not today. Good morning! But please come to tea - anytime you like! Why not tomorrow? Come tomorrow! Good-bye!" I couldn't think of a Scripture reference for this, but it reminds me of the thought of putting God in a neat little box. We want God in our lives, just like Bilbo on some level wants Gandalf in his life. However, we want God in our lives on our terms. We want to say, "This is God. I understand Him to be X, and never Y. He's here when I need Him, and when I don't I put him away on a shelf until the next time I need Him." God does not work like that though, so don't even try it!

So what did you think of Chapter One in The Hobbit? Read along with me, and comment at the bottom. Also, tune in two weeks for my reflections on Chapter Two!

A special thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt who was generous enough to provide me with the 75th Anniversary Pocket Edition of The Hobbit.