Bilbo Baggins and the Power of Hope

A few weeks ago, when we were celebrating our family advent time and had lit the candle of hope, we all shared something that gives us hope. One of my daughters said, “Going to church gives me hope, because it makes me feel that I’m not alone in trying to follow Jesus. We’re all in this together with other people trying to do the same thing.” That statement has stuck with me and taken my mind and heart in all sorts of reflective directions. I’d like to share with you the strongest one:

I see my journey of faith as a grand adventure, the kind of adventure that will entail all sorts of unexpected mini adventures along the way: new awakenings of grace and wonder and times of distance and quiet that require a deep faith to move through. And all the while this deep hope of my place in the Christ story is centering the day-to-day of my life and calling me further on the adventure. All of that said, it may come as no surprise that I love J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I guess I see myself as a bit of a Bilbo Baggins, called (maybe even cajoled: “I don’t want any adventures. Not today. Thank you…”) to a grand journey with a grand goal when large parts of me would rather just stay in a place of comfort in my hobbit hole (suburban house, couch, fireplace, big screen TV, dark ale…you get the picture).

“Over Hill – Bilbo and Gandalf” by Joel Lee (maxbat) (http://maxbat.deviantart.com/) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

If you know the story, you know that Bilbo steps out into the adventure, but he does so with a brash and gregarious group of dwarves who all together heed the call of Gandalf to pursue their quest. So, Bilbo is on “a grand adventure, the kind of adventure that entails all sorts of unexpected mini adventures along the way,” but he is not alone on this adventure; he’s “in this together with other people trying to do the same thing.” And along the way Gandalf re-enters at key times to remind them of their task, to challenge them to take heart, and to point the way. This adventure requires a lot of Bilbo: he must trust those he is with, he must trust the guidance of Gandalf, and he must hope that, in the end, his task has purpose and that good and beauty and truth will win the day.

In our roles in leadership, we are called at different times to embody the different characters Tolkien creates.

At times, I think it’s important for my community to see the Bilbo Baggins in me, taking a risk that puts me outside my comfort zone and requires me to trust in others and in the call our vision for Christian education is making on my life and my community. It would be way easier and safer to settle into the role of simply managing my school, but I know I am called into leadership. True leadership entails risk, requires others, and needs regular re-orienting to the deep call, the direction we are seeking. “Home is behind. The world ahead.”

As leaders, we are also called to be the Gandalf in our community, the one who challenges, inspires, and points in the direction we are to take. As leaders, one of our key responsibilities is to paint the picture of a kind of Christian education that makes a difference for the kingdom. Then we are to regularly point our community in that direction. And that pointing is done in and through relationships where we encourage, challenge, celebrate, collaborate, and inspire movement. I believe people respond to hope and are inspired to pursue a direction based on their hope that it is a true, good, and beautiful direction and based on their hope that they can have a part in moving in that direction.

And finally, I believe we are called to make merry. In Tolkien’s works there are times when Bilbo and the dwarves pause and make merry. They celebrate each other, drink strong ale, and take Sabbath from the journey in order to step back out into the journey with renewed vigor and passion. When we pause for celebration, we are making merry and celebrating that we are indeed on this great adventure together.

We’ve come a certain distance, and we have, together, the capacity to tarry on our grand adventure.

And I believe this merry making builds the hope within us that not only are we on this journey of Christian education together with those immediately around us, but we are also on this journey with others around the world presently engaged in good kingdom work, as well as the “great cloud of witnesses” that surrounds us often unawares. We are, after all, part of the greatest story ever told.

As you celebrate the gift of the Christ child, my hope for you is that you can take some time to make merry on this break in the adventure of Christian education, that your hope is renewed in reflection on the reality that we are doing this together, and that this hope will give you courage to risk and inspire you to clarity in direction.

– David Loewen

2 Comments

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2 Responses to Bilbo Baggins and the Power of Hope

  1. Jacob Bush

    Tolkien is a favorite of mine as well. Taking time to celebrate is an important investment. My favorite times with my staff and community are when we are celebrating what God is doing.

  2. David Loewen

    Thanks Jacob. I agree with you on both accounts and the meaningfulness of those times together celebrating what God is doing has grown as more and more i see them as times of celebration and solidarity in our co-work in the Kingdom. I know begin to see them as celebrations of what God HAS done, IS doing, and WILL do! Richest blessings on your new year Jacob. Thanks for reading and engaging. Dave

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