As The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opens, Bilbo Baggins has no desire for adventure. The curious child he once was is gone, leaving only a hobbit who enjoys his food, and pipe, and comfortable home.
The wizard Gandalf and a pack of zealous dwarves invade his house and offer him the opportunity for riches and excitement, along with the risk of death and dismemberment, for which they, of course, won’t be held responsible.
“Can you promise that I will come back?” Bilbo asks Gandalf when Gandalf tries to convince him to help the dwarves take back their home from the dragon.
“No,” Gandalf replies. “And if you do, you will not be the same.”
The same is true of every adventure we take.
No, we won’t face fire-breathing dragons that will very likely incinerate us. We won’t face trolls who want to eat us. We won’t need to outrun orcs who want to cut off our heads.
But the real life adventures can be just as terrifying. Our emotional lives, our very selves, are at stake. And adventures, in fantasies and in real life, are never easy.
His first night on the road with the dwarves, Bilbo can’t sleep for their snoring. The rain drenches him, and he regrets coming. It would have been easy for him to turn back. In fact, Thorin (leader of the dwarves) frequently goads him to, telling him he never should have come.
If we’re brave enough to take an adventure this year, we’ve going to face tests to our resolve as well.
Marriage. Parenthood. Leaving an abusive relationship. A move across the country. A change in jobs. Launching our own business. All the things that are really worth doing. We put ourselves in danger of broken hearts, lost sleep, separation from family, financial tragedy, and humiliation.
Part way in, we’ll probably wish we could turn back. We’ll regret the adventure we’ve started. We’ll be afraid that we won’t make it, and that if we do, we won’t know the person we’ve become.
And if we only look at the risks, we probably will turn back. We need to look at the benefits instead.
Because Bilbo didn’t run away, the dwarves accepted him as one of them, and he, in turn, was ready to give his life for them. Any spouse or parent would do the same for their family. Friendship, loyalty, love, and courage are worth the risk.
Bilbo learned his own strengths, like his intelligence. In our safety zones, we don’t always know what our strengths are. Sometimes discovering them takes risk.
What’s more, like Bilbo, we’ll prove the people wrong who said we’d never make it. We’ll learn what we’re truly capable of.
What adventure have you taken in the past that you’re glad you took? What adventure are you going to take this year?
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