As a family, we are slowly reading through The Hobbit, and so often I find myself relating to Bilbo. I know logically that this is one of the reasons the book is such an absolute masterpiece, because it is relatable, even if we are not hobbits. Stubborn and scared, Bilbo, not exactly willingingly, jumps into a deadly adventure in order to seek Justice for the dwarves and to experience the vastness of a world he can barely imagine. Just as the journey seems bleak and un-ending – as the mountains appear to extend forever, the silly and playful elves welcome the party to Rivendell.
“Their clothes were mended as well as their tempers and their hopes. Their bags were filled with food and provisions light to carry but strong to bring them over the mountain passes. Their plans were improved with the best advice. So the time came to midsummer eve, and they were to go on again with the early sun on midsummer morning.”The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien chapter 3 (p52 my copy)
Like Bilbo, we’re on a bit of an unending journey of shelter-in-place/pandemic quarantine, and we can’t see over the mountains. We don’t see the plush valley of the elves in the distance and we need – if not our clothes – our tempers and hopes mended. We need light weight provisions, strong enough to carry us through. We need the company of optimistic, truth speaking, people, with advice to carry us on the journey.
One of the hardest days of this entire quarantine was last Sunday. I’ve had many hard days, but I think in my mind, I had a different idea of how May 31 would go, and when I found out it wouldn’t, I was a bit devastated in a very selfish way. Just like Bilbo, I was kind of hoping the elves words would transport me back “home”, to my normal, non-quartantine life. I had hoped really, that if nothing else was normal,we’d be able to finish the Easter season by celebrating Pentecost together at church. And we didn’t. Planning for Sunday’s zoom service, and reading through the passages for the week, this one, specifically, made the distance nearly unbearable.
2:1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.Acts
2:2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.
2:3 Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.
Catch that? On Pentencost, they were all together in one place. And we weren’t.
We humans are meant for connection and community. We are meant to meet, to laugh and cajole one another, to sing and tell stories, and then to go out, refreshed with provisions and advice for climbing the mountains.
There are so many mountains right now. I don’t know where the valley which will renew and revive is – but I guess, to fit the analogy, neither did the party of Hobbit, Dwarves, and Wizard.
I’m sad for our world; glad that while it’s in chaos, perhaps we are beginning to deal with our own dragons of racial injustice and power imbalances. I’m sad that we’re still just human and not able to fully mend the broken pieces; hopeful that we’ll find some provisions along the way and begin to build paths toward hidden doorways and a sense of Home for all.
Whether in the midst of sheltering or protesting, I’m praying for strength and provision, and for continued paths toward every human flourishing. Come, Holy Spirit, Come. We need all the help we can get.