Story: A Changing Journey
Come Rising Road or Deep Pothole
Bilbo’s Tookish spirit rose to meet Gandalf’s call to an adventure. As he dashed out his door to meet the wizard and his departing band of dwarves, Bilbo stepped into a perilous journey. He knew the promise of fathomless wealth lay at the end, but he was uncertain about what dangers and mishaps may await along the way. The road may rise to meet him, or it may open unexpected potholes. Running or stumbling, however, the diminutive troop would press toward the end, forever changed by the travails.
What They Met on the Road
As Bilbo’s band trooped to the dwarven mines, the road wended in many surprising twists. Trolls tried to have them for dinner, rather more literally than the travelers would have liked. Even after escaping these dangerous diners, the gang was apprehended by goblins, hunted by evil wolves, cocooned by giant spiders, and imprisoned by distrusting elves. Tired of taking a journey in the passive voice, Bilbo took on a more active role. Using a golden ring acquired by dubious means, the thieving hobbit became his companions’ unexpected rescuer. As he stepped out of his timid Baggins mindset, the adventurous Took played a crucial role in escorting his dwarven troop to their destination.
Bilbo at the End
As Bilbo endured through the dangers, he grew and changed. The homebody who left the Shire in impulsive haste would return a different hobbit. “My dear Bilbo,” exclaimed Gandalf at the adventure’s end, “something is the matter with you. You are not the hobbit that you were.” The short Shire adventurer had danced with elves, traipsed under ancient oaks, riddled with monsters, and plunged into cavernous depths. The eyes that have seen towering mountains would never again be fully satisfied with rolling hills. His feet, however, would find those familiar heights far easier to scale, and his bounding steps would be filled with deeper joy.
Like Bilbo’s journey, our own adventures will be difficult. God, however, is using them to renew and reshape our lives. Some days the sun will shine bright and warm on our road. On other days, however, storm clouds will gather, washing away hopes and expectations. In each of those moments, Immanuel is on the path with us. He smiles with us in the daylight and bears us up in the night. The beauty of this companion is that he is constant, never changing (Hebrews 13:8).
Though Christ remains ever the same, we can change. In our shared journey, Jesus is remaking us. In a reversal of the trolls’ experience, when the light of Christ shines on our hearts, they turn from stone into flesh. Gospel Coalition author Jen Wilkins writes, “Just as my assurance of salvation rests on the fact that God cannot change, my hope of sanctification rests on the fact that I can.” We are on the way, but we aren’t there yet.