I’ve given up on the pile of new books on my table screaming for attention, and in these winter nights turned to my old favorite: The Lord of the Rings.
As I’m going on the heroic hobbit quest with Frodo and Sam, I am feeling a double yearning that I suspect is pretty much universal, and that is to be both a hobbit and a hermit.
Give me the hobbit’s life of adventure. I want to shrug on my backpack, pick up my stick and set off on the open road. I want to sleep rough with nothing but the freedom of the quest. Give me dragons to fight and giants to joust with. I’ll set off with a gang of rogues dwarves or a waiting king. It doesn’t much matter. I’ll take the ring to Mordor even though I do not know the way.
This is the life of following Christ–to leave the fishing nets on the shore and stand the world on its head and set off I know not where but I do know why. I’m a pilgrim, a nomad, a wanderer in the wilderness. I won’t put my tent stakes too deep for I have wanderlust and I wonder about the lust. I do not want compromise or the comfortable life.
It’s a pirate’s life for me.
But then I think of the other side of the hobbit: the cozy, fireside sort of fellow. That is where the hermit comes in. Forsooth! The open road! I am sure I am called to the enclosed life. Here in this cloister I will stay and this will be my adventure.
Give me my cell, my study, my library. Give me my hobbit hole, my hermit’s cave and my quiet life. I will run the risk of the inner adventure. My mind, my books, my ideas, my prayers and contemplations will hold my questions and be my quest.
You may keep your open road. I’ll have my open book. That will be my gateway to adventure. That will be the looking glass into wonderland, the rabbit hole and the wardrobe into Narnia.
So we balance life and balance our longings. On the one hand seeking the comfort, security and warmth of the hearth, the home and the hobbit hole. On the other hand, longing for adventure, risk and accomplishment of the outer world.
As the great adventure of Lent approaches we should resolve to nurture both—the hobbit and the hermit. We should spend more time on our own in prayer and contemplation. More time in study. More time in the Sacred Scriptures. More time with the saints in heaven. More time before the Blessed Sacrament.
But we should also resolve to never give up the quest. We should love comfort, but never become comfortable. We should want to press on, keep running the race and taking the risks.
Hobbit or Hermit? Why not be both?