This March, I sat down with my family to watch the movie The Hobbit. I had already seen it twice before, so I knew what to expect. But God, who is always doing something new, had something else in mind, something much more profound than “what’s expected”.
Just a little bit of background is needed to understand the significance of this viewing of The Hobbit. After leaving the seminary in the middle of October once I discerned a call to the married life, I was excited to start living a “normal life”. My plan was to find a decent job in youth ministry or as a Director of Religious Education in the Kansas City area so that I could begin to pay off my college debt. Meanwhile, I would be trying to find my lovely bride-to-be. This was what young men did after leaving the seminary and this was what I wanted to do.
Now back to this past March. A few weeks before I sat down to watch The Hobbit, I had heard about this Catholic Missionary group named Family Missions Company. FMC invites “crazy” Catholic lay people, who have the desire, to share Christ’s love with the poor throughout the world! They invited single people, married couples, and even entire families to let go of everything at home, everything normal, and go into the unknown to serve Christ in the poorest of the poor. This was so crazy that I instantly fell in love with the idea. However, a normal life sounded pretty safe for a guy trying to be normal.
So as I sat there watching The Hobbit, all of this was running through the back of my mind. Now for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie or read the book: go do it right after you read this! The main idea is that there is this hobbit, named Bilbo Baggins, who is living a very comfortable and normal life, as hobbits go. It is just business as usual for Bilbo when a wizard, named Gandalf, shows up and invites this comfortable guy to undertake an adventure. Bilbo very quickly makes clear to Gandalf that he is not even the slightest bit interested in any adventure, most especially one that could cost him his life. Gandalf knows that there is a deeper desire in Bilbo’s heart to live out such an adventure, and works to awaken that sleeping part found within him.
During one of these conversations between Gandalf and Bilbo, Gandalf says, “You’ll have a tale or two to tell of your own when you come back.” Bilbo gravely asks him in response, “Can you promise that I will come back?” To this Gandalf says, “No. And if you do… you will not be the same.” As I heard these words, I felt awaken within me my sleeping sense of adventure, my long-forgotten yearning to pour out everything, to exhaust my very life for Christ and His Church. I had forgotten the “crazy” part of falling in love with God and His people. A love so intense you would do anything to show the great love you feel in your chest, even something as risky as leaving behind all sense of normal for a chance at the unforgettable!
Gandalf, with a few wise words, drew from me the deepest desire to lose everything, just as Christ once did on the cross out of love for us. Is there anything more manly than that? Love poured out, even to the point of death, for one’s beloved? And so, by the grace of God and with great love in my chest, I am proud to say that I have abandoned all pursuit of a normal life! Beginning in September, I will be following Christ as a missionary with FMC into the unknown adventure He has in store for me!
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