The Hobbit – Remaining “Tookish”

In making “spiritual” applications from the books I am reading, it is likely that some of them will be a stretch.  This one falls into that category for sure, but it is an application nonetheless.

Perhaps my favorite chapter of The Hobbit is the very first one.  From the word go, one can gather many intricacies of the main characters personalities, right down to basic likes and dislikes.  It is obvious that Bilbo is a creature that loves comfort and values a good meal over thoughts of adventure.  Bilbo is very well mannered and knows all the social niceties, even well enough to hold a somewhat spirited conversation with the great wizard Gandalf.  Bilbo adores the fine things of life, and for him, there is nothing finer than smoking his pipe after a filling meal and dreaming of the next time he will be able to do so.  Life for Bilbo depends on rhythm and predictability and he is totally fine with that.

Enter Thorin and company.   These dwarves had seen many things in their lives, particularly Thorin, who had witnessed the destruction of his home Erebor.  They took up jobs as smiths and coal miners to make ends meet, but did not lose their lust for adventure and revenge.  They stayed hungry during the years when others would have faltered.  For whatever reason, the time was now ripe for them to take back their beloved city, and they planned to do it with gusto.  Even the new recruits, Fili and Kili, who were not yet born when Smaug laid siege to Erebor, were convinced that this adventure, though life threatening, was of vital importance.

The enthusiasm and unpredictable nature of the dwarves awoke something in Bilbo.  His “Tookish” side came forth.  Though his father demonstrated a life of comfort and conventionality, Bilbo’s mother and her side of the family lived lives filled with exciting activity.  This part of Bilbo sprung to life when he became aware of his assumed role of burglar.  The song and music of the dwarves “moved through him”, and its magic touched him at his very core.  The Tookish spirit rose in him, slaying the spirit of timidity.  Again, a son of a Took longed to “carry a sword instead of a walking stick.”

Something similar happens to all of us who are Christians.  We begin our walk with Jesus on a high note, basking in the grace that we have in Jesus and relishing in all the blessings he has afforded us with his death on the cross.  We embrace the words of Paul, as we realize that “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)  We rabidly share our faith, as if someone’s eternal destiny depends on it.  We drink deep from the pages of Scripture and spend hours on our knees in prayer, sometimes not even knowing what to say, but just simply listening for the voice of the Lord.

What happens to us?  We get comfortable.  The truths of Scripture somehow becomes stale to us.  We begin to look at new Christians as “baby Christians,” which somehow places us on a pedestal that is secure and untouchable.  We think we know it all, so we become unteachable.  We still want to reach out to the lost, but under the cover of some program to makes it easy.  After all, “We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures.  Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things!  Make you late for dinner!”  Those things that were once important to us now fall into the “someone else will do it” pile.

How do we remain “Tookish” in our Christianity?  First, we must not lose sight of the gospel message, which is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners.  He does the work of redemption and continues to do the work of sanctification in our hearts and minds.  The Spirit began this work in us, and He will see it through to completion.  That completely frees us up to be adventurous!  Convention and security do not bind us, but we are free to take risks and live out our faith through daily practice, rather than on paper.

We also are free to be teachable.  In Christ, there are no distinctions.  We can learn from the youngest among us and will never stop learning this side of heaven.  We become codgerly when we see others as less than we are and believe we have cornered the market on maturity and wisdom.  You find a similar theme as the hobbits leave in The Fellowship of the Ring.  The Hobbiton community simply cannot believe that is any good use in adventure and upsetting the norm.  They had no idea their world was dying all around them.  As believers, we are free to do the work of ministry.  We should not look for the younger ones to do it.  How will they even know to do it if we are not working side by side with them?   If Bilbo never opened his door when he heard the dwarves knocking, Middle Earth would have fallen to Sauron.  When the Church sits back and lets “baby Christians” do the work because “they need experience,” the Church will falter.

There is much to learn from the “Tookish” side of Bilbo.  Though this side of him will lead him through troubled times, it will also save the day.  There is much to learn from that.

“You need to read more Edwards…”

As a younger man just starting in full-time ministry, I began to pursue ordination.  I met with the Credentials committee several times, and each time I met with them was worse than the previous.  Though I have retained much of my youthful pugnacity, it showed itself with much more vigor then.  I regularly bucked the system presented to me.  One such occurrence is the inspiration for this blog.

During one meeting with the committee, they asked what I had been reading when I was not reading seminary texts.  I told them, “Well, I mostly read fantasy, and I have been reading through the Harry Potter series.”  They were looking for a different answer.  After a few furrowed brows and funny looks, one of the men said to me, “You need to read more Edwards…”  He also went on to explain his own method of picking one “church forefather”, reading his entire works, then picking another.  With the other men sitting around, nodding their heads in agreement, I said, “Well, that just isn’t for me.”  Again, they were looking for a different answer.

All these years later, the presbytery (that I now work in) recently recommended me for ordination, thus ending a 7-year journey through seminary and Edwards, Luther, Calvin, and the like.  My views of ordination have changed over the years, and I now see the need for seminary training and the stupidity of my thinking as a young-20’s youth worker.  I cherish my seminary training and count it a blessing to have received it.  That said, the writings of Edwards and others still are not for me.  These writers and their works are important and even necessary for the church today, but they are not something I am going to pick up and read for pleasure.  I do not have the mind for it.  I admire those men who can pick up Calvin and read it with ease, but as many times as I have tried, I cannot do it.  Though I have waded through many academic texts over the past years, I am still a fan of fantasy.

With my recent finishing of the ordination process, I have committed to reading only fantasy for the next year.  I will have to read nonfiction texts to prepare for sermons and to teach, but other than that, I am putting nonfiction on the shelf this year.  This blog will detail my journey back into the realm of fantasy. My particular focus will be to pull the redemptive elements out of the books I read.  I plan to read works done by Christian authors, atheist authors, and those in between.  I believe that ultimately, all truth is God’s truth.  One can find redemptive elements in most all things, and fantasy literature is no different.

My goal is to post at least once a week on what I am currently reading, and bring out the redemptive elements.  I do not plan to be “preachy” but that will no doubt occur some along the way.  I will post a tentative reading list soon.

Current Reading Schedule

Here is the current list of books I’m planning to read (and in this order):

The Hobbit by Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by Tolkien

The Similarion by Tolkien

His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman

A Song of Fire and Ice (5 books currently) by George R.R. Martin

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

This is a good place to start for me, as I don’t consider myself a fast reader.  These books may even take me past my 12-month fantasy interlude, which is fine.  As I read these, I will also be reading The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis to my daughters.  The book list I generated is by no means a end-all-be-all list of fantasy, but it represents for me a few differing approaches to the genre, particularly in that some of the authors write from a biblical world-view, and some write from an anti-biblical world-view.  The others are stuck somewhere in between.  It would be easy to pull redemptive elements out of books similar to Tolkien’s series, but I want to venture off the path some.  I try to read the Hobbit once a year, and that is why I’m starting there.  It is only natural to read through the rest of the Tolkien canon before venturing out into other works, who to one degree or another borrow from the English storyteller.

I am open to suggestions, and I know many would say that I need to add this or that, but for the time being, I’m content with the list I have.

I’ll begin posting about The Hobbit soon.

A blog discussing games, family, and games with family.

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