With about a week and a half to go before I leave to serve on the border in El Paso, I’m trying not to panic. Not that I don’t want to go. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m excited about this new adventure and where it may lead. I truly believe that in following my heart and taking this step, what I’m being called to next in this stage of my journey will become clearer. But for now, preparing to leave my house, my devoted dog, and daily responsibilities for 2 ½ months or more feels daunting. So many details to manage, finances to get in order, and lists to prepare. And I still need to orientate my good friend, who unbelievably has agreed to house sit, take care of my dog, and help me clear out more stuff while I’m gone. She’s fully supporting me so that when I return from El Paso, I’ll be ready to venture off to wherever I may be called to go next.
Actually, this all sounds kind of unsettling, doesn’t it? I have to admit that while this is an exciting step, it’s scary too. And risky. After all, who knows what I’ll face while dealing with the many complexities of our immigration system? And with immigration reform slated to be taken up again in 2014, controversy around the issue is sure to fire up. Will I be up for the task? Will I work through my fears with courage and perseverance? This is the archetypal hero’s journey, isn’t it? Leaving home. Venturing into the unknown. Wondering what challenges you’ll find and how you’ll meet them.
Recently I witnessed, quite inadvertently, a metaphor for my journey. Over the Christmas holiday while visiting my sister and her family we watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. My niece had given the DVD to her dad for Christmas and I asked if we could watch it. I seemed to be the only one in the room–and probably one of the few on the planet–who hadn’t seen it yet. I know the movie actually came out a year ago, but I’ll be the first to admit I’m on the slow track when it comes to keeping up with the latest in entertainment. Lucky for me, my son, niece, and brother-in-law don’t mind seeing movies over and over again.
Somehow when they put the movie on, I missed the fact that it was titled “An Unexpected Journey.” I simply settled in to watch what I thought would be another vivid action fantasy along the lines of the The Lord of the Rings series.
But it wasn’t long before I began to recognize Bilbo Baggins’ journey as a metaphor for my own life. It happened right about the time the dwarves started invading Bilbo’s adorable little home nestled in a hollow of a tree. Looking anything like dwarves, these husky men appeared unexpectedly at his door, one after another, wearing rancid furs and donning scruffy beards, their wild hair shooting off in all directions. They ransacked his kitchen, helped themselves to his food, sloshed ale over his table, and generally created a noisy, out-of-control atmosphere. All the while, Bilbo grew visibly uncomfortable and anxious as he watched this chaotic situation unfold. I could feel his pain. I, too, once had a tidy and predictable life. Guarded my possessions. Prized order and structure. Thought I knew where I was headed. And who was coming along with me. Not so anymore.
I call it the workings of the Holy Spirit or the True Self.
First there’s the invitation — the foreshadowing of an unexpected journey ahead. In The Hobbit, Gandalf, the wizard, takes this role, showing up unannounced and mysterious, with his invitation for Bilbo to go on an “adventure.” But Bilbo has no intentions of leaving his comfortable life and his quaint home. He’s perfectly happy with life as it is. Or so he thinks. When these wild men show up at his door, they get him to wonder about something more. Even though at first he’s certain he doesn’t want to join in this adventure, he ends up hurrying off after them when he discovers the next morning they’ve left him behind. At some point in the journey, feeling unprepared, scared, and certain he’s made a mistake, Bilbo decides to go back home. But he doesn’t. He sticks with it. And transformation happens. The turning point comes when the king of the dwarves is about to be killed, and Bilbo goes through his fear, tackles the evil in front of him and saves the king.
For me, the invitation came when I listened to my heart and heard God calling me to something more. What exactly, I do not know. I understand my life won’t be the same. No more rational explanations. Like Bilbo, I figure I’ll have moments when I feel scared, unprepared, and wondering why I left home. But also like Bilbo, I choose to leave behind my tidy, predictable life and accept the adventure. Even though it may mean facing some tough, long-held fears. Even though I don’t know where the adventure will lead. But one thing I do know: I will never be left to face the journey alone.
Probably by the next time you hear from me, I’ll be writing from El Paso.