What You Asked For

The beginning of The Hobbit is a joy. It is more of a delight now than when I first read it fifty years ago. I may not have a snug hobbit hole, but today I am comfortable. I have lived in the same house and taught at the same place for over twenty years. Like Bilbo, I need no adventures. And yet . . ..

Bilbo is forthright in declaring, “We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things.” He then adds a hobbit’s strongest argument, “Make you late for dinner.” He tries to send Gandalf on his way with “We don’t want any adventures here, thank you!” But Gandalf hangs around.

After Gandalf tells Bilbo his name, Bilbo gushes on about the fireworks he had seen as a boy and about how Gandalf had sent so many quiet lads and lasses “off into the Blue for mad adventures.” Bilbo then wistfully exclaims, “Bless me, life use to be quite inter—I mean, you use upset things badly in these parts once upon a time.”

And there you have it—the conflict within Bilbo. And within me. Perhaps within us all. Like Gandalf, the Holy Spirit comes looking for someone to join him in adventures. Often we seek to send him on his way. After all, there is a fine line between adventure and trouble. God’s Spirit can “upset things badly.” But there is a part of us that longs for that kind of upset—in our churches and our lives.

Here is one of the terrible things about the Holy Spirit: he knows us better than we know ourselves. Like Bilbo, we can insist we are respectable Baggins who do not want adventures. But God knows better. Gandalf proclaims to Bilbo, “Indeed for your old grandfather Took’s sake, and for the sake of poor Belladonna, I will give you what you asked for.” Gandalf rightly identified the “Tookish” part of Bilbo’s heart—the part eager for adventure.

Bilbo, however, protests that he had not asked Gandalf for anything. Amused, Gandalf explains that that he had indeed begged his pardon twice. Gandalf gives his pardon and adds, “In fact I will go so far as to send you on this adventure.”

The whole introduction to The Hobbit is Bilbo being given that for which he did not ask and going on the journey that he did not seek. At age fifty. This is wonderful because it is the way God drags us into the things we did not know we wanted. God is always giving us what we asked for even when we have not asked. Adventures!

About Mark

I live in Myrtle Point, Oregon with my wife Teckla and am the father of four boys. Currently I teach writing and literature at Southwest Oregon Community College. I am a graduate of Myrtle Point High School, Northwest Nazarene College, and have a Masters in English from Washington State University.
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