A Hobbit, a Quest, and the Danger of Comfort

Are you like Bilbo Baggins?

When we first meet this homely hobbit, he’s…you guessed it. At home, enjoying his quiet, comfortable life in his quiet, comfortable corner of the world. He’s happy right where he is, safe from unexpected adventures and events that might jolt him out of his routine.

For most of us, in one way or another, this rings with familiarity. Even if our life isn’t as simple or easygoing as Bilbo’s, we all have our routines, our safe places, our comfort zones we’re loathe to break out of.

In Bilbo’s story, this is the point when his small bubble bursts. Enter Gandalf, who sees Bilbo’s complacency and decides to do something about it.

After Gandalf invades his content but boring life, Bilbo’s world turns upside down. A journey, dangers, a dragon, treasure. Elves and talking spiders. Methinks our homely hobbit’s mind must have been exploding as he discovered the wide reaches of the world beyond his doorstep.

on a journeyHe experienced things he couldn’t have imagined and grew in ways he would have previously thought impossible.

I’m sure you’ve read the story or watched the movies, so I won’t drag my description out—which is a bane of certain writers. But not me. Of course not. 😉

Important Journeys Aren’t Easy

In today’s culture, we make a big deal out of doing the hard thing. Why? Because doing the hard thing is, well, so darn hard. Taking that leap of faith when making an important decision, or pushing yourself to get outside your comfort zone—often, it can feel like leaping from the tree falling off the edge of the cliff, and hoping the eagles will catch you.

It’s terrifying and difficult because, like Bilbo, we don’t like change. We avoid it like we avoid the consequences of hosting a pack of rowdy, messy dwarves. We prefer life to come in neat packages, safe from situations that will make us uncomfortable or challenge us in ways we don’t want but secretly know we need.

Fear and doubt grab hold of us, and though we see an unknown path laid out at our feet, waiting to be traversed, we hesitate. “Where will it lead? What will happen? I don’t want to leave my safe haven.”

worried womanBeing comfortable is dangerous. Imagine if Bilbo had stayed put. He would have missed the opportunity to experience something profound that altered his perspective on life. It’s much the same with us.

Eventually, Bilbo decides to embark on the journey and see where it takes him. The decision is the first step, yet it doesn’t lead to a garden path lined with rose beds and honeysuckle. It’s far from relaxing, but once begun, there’s no turning back.

Despite the hardships and trials, which tested Bilbo and seemed as bent on recurring as Marvel characters returning from the dead, the journey wasn’t without benefits.

  • Bilbo makes new friends
  • He learns more about himself, finding courage he didn’t know he possessed
  • He experiences life outside the narrow confines of the shire
  • He comes to understand and appreciate what’s important in life

For every cloud of danger or difficulty that descended on the journey, a ray of light stabbed through, a reminder that while hard, the journey would prove worthwhile.

I’m not saying any time we feel comfortable we should abandon that situation and make ourselves miserable out of some sense of guilty obligation. Far from it.

However, at times we need to face the fear. It’s too easy to become trapped in our routine, huddled in our comfortable cocoon. Instead, we need to be willing to grow and stretch ourselves. To see new places, gain new experiences, do something that scares us a little.

For Bilbo, it was the danger of undertaking a quest into the unknown. For us, the process can take many shapes.

Any experience of lasting value won’t come easily. But we shouldn’t let the adversity prevent us from stepping out of our comfortable place and trekking the path.

As Bilbo, made wise by his experience, later tells Frodo,

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

Have you seen an experience in your life that’s similar to Bilbo’s? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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