A Lesson from Bilbo Baggins

Hobbits are homebodies, a fact I remembered when I saw the movie The Hobbit recently. Bilbo Baggins has created a home full of physical comforts and reminders of the goodness of his past. Home is the place in which he can exhale deeply and let himself be embraced by all his favorite things. Home is to Bilbo, in the words of an old IKEA commercial, the Most Important Place in the World.

But then Bilbo decides to follow Gandalph the Grey and a band of dwarves he doesn’t know to places he has never been and to encounter creatures he has never imagined. Thus the movie begins. But this scene, in which you see how precious his comfortable life is to him, and his decision to then go off on his adventure, struck a chord with me.

I too happen to love our home and the life that we have built in it. I have tried to make it a place where my family, immediate and extended, and my friends can feel at home, and be embraced by a feeling of comfort and well-being. Sometimes I wish for a snow day just so everyone can stay in our warmest, softest clothes and just be.

But I have also been thinking a lot lately about the calling of my faith not to be too attached to my world, and to be willing to pick up and follow a new path, if doing so advances my spirituality. Many are the Biblical parables of people who stumble on this path because they cannot give up the security of their belongings, their positions, others’ opinions of them: whatever it is they hold most precious. If I heard this calling, would I be quick to follow it? I want to say yes, absolutely. But if I am being completely honest with myself, I like coming home to a warm house. I like having warm clothes to wear (I like warmth–can you tell it’s winter?). I like having a bicycle and running shoes, whose uses bring me enjoyment. I like being able to sink into bed at the end of a long day under the warm (there it is again!) covers. I like that I have good relationships with others that allow me to get more done.

I don’t believe I am being called to give these things up at the moment, mind you. But the point is that I ought to be willing to.  I would like to reach a point where my priorities and focus are always so aligned that I would leave the trappings of my world without hesitation. I would like to know that before I ask myself, am I ready to part with this thing, I see instead the good it can do me and others to part with it, and that it doesn’t matter whether or not I am ready. I would like to know that I act first out of love for others before I think of my own interests. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

Ever wondered about this? How easily could you leave your world? The reason need not be spiritual advancement. Sometimes it is helping a friend or taking risks to support something that matters to you. Sometimes it is, simply, going on an adventure because your life has become too routine. How do you decide that you need to leave the comforts of your home, physical or emotional? At what point is it worth giving up home? Bilbo won’t find out for a long time that his sacrifice was worth it. Worthwhile, I believe, do most of ours end up being, if only we will take that first leap.

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