Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Conversion of Bilbo Baggins

On a long drive this morning to NJ, after the girls fell into what I'd call a strategically placed nap, with only the Boy awake, I popped in my coveted Lord of the Rings audiobook and our feet took again to that Ancient Road that leads to the West. I was struck this time (I'm always struck when I read this masterpiece, by the way) at the sense of conversion and redemption it holds in its pages. Listen to the vulnerability of Mr. Baggins as he explains to Gandalf the hold the Ring of Power has over him and the confusion it engenders. 

Bilbo drew his hand over his eyes. 'I am sorry,' he said. 'But I felt so queer. And yet it would be a relief in a way not to be bothered with it any more. It has been so growing on my mind lately. Sometimes I have felt it was like an eye looking at me. And I am always wanting to put it on and disappear, don't you know; or wondering if it is safe, and pulling it out to make sure. I tried locking it up, but I found I couldn't rest without it in my pocket. I don't know why. And I don't seem able to make up my mind.' 
      'Then trust mine,' said Gandalf. 'It is quite made up. Go away and leave it behind. Stop possessing it. Give it to Frodo, and I will look after him.' 
       Bilbo stood for a moment tense and undecided. Presently he sighed. 'All right,' he said with an effort. 'I will.'
- Fellowship of the Ring, pg. 34, J.R.R. Tolkien

Lent is about letting go of the little rings of power that keep us circumscribed unto ourselves, always circling, never breaking out in linear paths to our great potential. Lent is about our being stripped, emptied of the clutter of the self-conscious life (which is different from the self-aware life) Lent is a chance to clear out the closet of self-importance, pride, egoism, and the endless desire to possess and covet things, which itself is a twisted desire for self-possession. 

But we cannot, as Mr. Baggins could not, do this work alone. We need that supernatural power of grace to assist us, inspire us, and allow us to let go of our addictions. For Bilbo it was the Wizard Gandalf. For Christians, it is The Lord. 

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