The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was released in theaters this last weekend. I saw the film at midnight on opening night and thoroughly enjoyed being drawn into Middle Earth once again. One of the themes I think Tolkien (and Peter Jackson) writes well in The Hobbit is to show us the value of persevering through the unexpected. Bilbo Baggins is pulled into an adventure he could never have expected or been prepared for. He is in over his head and stumbles between trials and tribulations with the rest of his Dwarven company. We are reminded over and over again that Bilbo is far away from the comforts of his home, out of his element, and facing the unknown. Gandalf tells Biblo, “You’ll have a tale or two to tell when you come back.” Biblo asks, “You can promise that I’ll come back?” Gandalf responds by telling Bilbo, “No. And if you do, you will not be the same.” The unexpected is what truly makes Bilbo’s adventure worthwhile.
The same is true for our lives as well. We work so hard to plan for our futures, to make and keep our schedules full. Can we say with reasonable certainty that things will go as planned? Sometimes they do, more often than not I think. But there is always the unexpected, the unknown kink in the plan that surprises us and forces us to be flexible and adaptable. But these kinks and wrenches make the story worth telling. After all, if we could predict the events at every stage of the journey, the story would become predictable and ordinary.
It is in this unexpected adventure that we are able to catch glimpses of the Gospel narrative in Tolkien’s work, though certainly not the only hints. Jesus, the Master Storyteller, knew that in the work of the Kingdom, the unexpected is the only thing that could be counted upon. God’s plans are so beyond our understanding that we cannot predict with any certainty where He will take us next. The best example from Jesus we have is what he has to say about his expected return one day to conquer sin and claim victory for all time. He says, “Know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Luke 12:39-40).
Like the Disciples and Bilbo Baggins, we also must be ready for the unexpected. We must be ready for God to call us into places we are not comfortable going. We must be ready for God to upset the plans we have for our lives and utilize us in His Kingdom in astonishing and unforeseen ways. This is only accomplished with open eyes and open hearts to hear God’s direction. If we are making plans and filling our schedules, are we leaving room for Jesus to act through us? Are we open to the idea of having our plans disrupted in the name of God’s Kingdom?