Story: Dinner with Dwarves
Hobbits are creatures of habit with a love for life’s simple pleasures. A warm dinner, crackling fire, and well-packed pipe constitute the perfect evening for these folk.
While these individuals pride themselves on etiquette and hospitality, the Hobbits’ tables rarely have open seats for the unexpected. “We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures,” affirmed Bilbo Baggins, a particularly habit-bound Hobbit, “Nasty disturbing, uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them” (Tolkien, The Hobbit). As the clock strikes hour after predictable hour, Hobbits stay snug in their routine—except for the Tooks.
Dinner with Dwarves
On a nondescript evening, Bilbo Baggins had almost sat down for a much-deserved dinner. Before his bottom could meet capacious chair, however, a knock rattled the door. Irked, yet curious he opened to discover the wizard Gandalf lurking about on the porch. This advance visitor would soon usher in 13 rough-and-tumble dwarves. Much put-upon, yet constrained by his impulse to etiquette, Bilbo catered an unexpected dinner party.
As they engorged a makeshift feast, the dwarves regaled Bilbo with a tale of their cavernous kingdom awash in oceans of gold. Their pecuniary sea, however, had been invaded by an uninvited dragon. Bravery, or perhaps foolhardiness, compelled these dwarven folk to reclaim their stolen patrimony. And they needed Bilbo’s help.
What Took Over
While the dwarves told their tale, a deep, untapped longing stirred within the Hobbit. Snowcapped mountains, fierce dragons, and endless waves of gold crested across his imagination. Some part of him wanted, even yearned, to leave behind the confines of the Shire for a grander story. Adventure captivated this homebody Hobbit, for he was part Took.
The proper part of Bilbo, however, was horrified by the dwarves’ proposition, so he adamantly refused. Uncertainly settled in his resolve, Bilbo put to bed the intruding guests.
When morning broke, the Hobbit found a note from his suddenly departed lodgers. As he read about their disappointment in his decision, visions of elves and mountains danced anew in his mind, and his Tookish spirit overcame his Baggins’ qualms. Impulsively, Bilbo burst through his door and scurried into the arms of adventure.
The Divine Intruder
Like Bilbo, we feel at home in our sin and normality. We know the course of our lives and need not deviate. God, not unlike a pack of uninvited dwarves, ever knocks on our door and invites himself in. As he dines with us, his put-upon companions, he tells enthralling tales of grand adventures.
When the Lord comes in, he has a habit of calling things out. He called light out of darkness, and he called Lazarus out of his tomb. Like the wizard Gandalf pointing Bilbo toward adventure, God calls us out of our Hobbit holes, and directs us to dragon’s gold. G.K. Chesterton, in his book Orthodoxy, captures well the frame of God’s invitation when he writes:
“Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul.”
In Pursuit of Joy
God invites us to pursue his joy. In response, many answer with Baggins-esque irritation. Reflecting on this, C.S. Lewis wrote in The Weight of Glory:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
A few individuals, however, succumb to the Tookish impulse of the Holy Spirit and dive head first into the great adventure that is our Christian faith. “It’s a dangerous business, going out your front door," writes Tolkien. You can never tell where the road will lead. However, of this you can be confident: “To fall in love with God is the greatest romance,” wrote St. Augustine, “to seek Him, the greatest adventure; to find Him, the greatest human achievement."