Today, we have a special guest post from Jill Richardson, author of Hobbits, You, and the Spiritual World of Middle Earth. I have yet to read the book, but I did enjoy the sample on Amazon. One I’m curious to read more. When complete strangers contact me via email, I feel like Rapunzel in Tangled: “Who are you and how did you find me?” Ha!
When Jill Richardson emailed me, I did some digging and reading. Who was this woman mixing fantasy with a devotional? There are quite a few actually and I’m always a bit hesitant. But needless to say, I said yes, and I am so glad I did. She has written such a beautiful article for today’s post, and I am excited to share it with you all.
So without further ado, please welcome, Ms. Richardson!
What To Do with the Time (and Dreams) We’re Given
by Jill Richardson
My love affair with all things Tolkien started late. It’s not like my brother didn’t try. He told me Lord of the Rings and Tolkien’s other works were the best books ever written. He even gave them to me. But I never read them. (I did finally pay my brother back by dedicating my book to him, though. It was fair.)
Then my husband started reading the books to our girls in preparation for seeing the movie, thirteen years ago. I went, and I sat in that dark theater in Bozeman, Montana, expecting not to like the action adventure film.
I fell irrevocably in love. Went home. Read all the books. Started studying them, and finally wrote a book about them. My fascination with character study and these particularly amazing characters flooded together in that book that combined Tolkien and Scripture (and trademark sarcasm).
But one particular moment sitting in the theater not only solidified my love for the work—it changed who I would be. It was a moment that taught me more of what it meant to “live life balanced between reality and dreams.” I didn’t know it, but it began my life as an adventurer for God, not a spectator.
Remember, The Fellowship of the Ring came out three months after 9/11. The pain was still raw, the fear still thick, the sense of shock that our familiar world was obliterated still overwhelming. So I heard the words that have become my favorite quote for the first time, and they sank deep.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
It summed up how we all felt then. The collective wish that such times had never, ever come in our lives. And it gave us, it gave me, a choice. I could choose to decide what to do with the time that was given to me. I did not have to let time happen to me.
So I did, and I willingly told God to take me on a Bilbo-style adventure. Wherever, whatever, whenever—I’ll decide to do what you want with the time you’ve given me. (He took me at my word—he packed our family of five up for a mission trip to China ten months later.)
I had no idea what that choice was going to mean.
Fast forward about four years. In the middle of serious health and ministry challenges came the greatest challenge I’d ever faced. Our beautiful, brilliant firstborn fell over the cliff of clinical depression/bipolar, and I witnessed the special effects.
I felt like Frodo sitting in that dark cave crying (OK, screaming) at God. “I wish this had never come to me! I never wanted to know about depression, or teen suicide, or drug addiction and cutting. I never, ever wanted to know those things so devastatingly well. I wish none of this had ever happened.” I did not want to choose to accept those times.
But that was not for me to decide.
A lot of dreams I had for my child died, and a whole lot of reality became way too real. Finding the balance changed daily. But over the next five years, we did. We learned, we changed, and we healed. But most of all, we grew in what it means to make a choice about what to do with the times, and circumstances, we are given.
At some point, I realized I had only one dream anymore for my child. Please, God, let her survive. Keep her alive. We’ll negotiate everything else at a later date. Just—keep her alive. The rest of those imaginations I’d held seemed far less important. College? Marry a great Christian man? Using her brilliance for God’s glory? Yeah, just alive. That’s good enough right now.
Something happens when you get down to the barest of aspirations and release those dreams you’ve assumed as the right of families to dream. God picks the old ones up, puts them away, and replaces them with His dreams for you. Dreams you had no idea about because you were too busy pursuing yours. Dreams like making me a person of abundant grace (oh, that had not been me), or an advocate for mental illness and substance abusers. Or creating me into someone who chooses less to have those perfect airbrushed dreams and more to show a messy, crazy love that somehow makes more dreams come true than I ever imagined.
Sometimes we lose the balance of dreams and reality not because our dreams are too large but because they are too small. We’ve limited ourselves to dreaming about the conventional and safe. It could take shaking those limited, weak dreams down to survival to force us to dream bigger.
Frodo didn’t dream of adventures and heroism. He never wanted to be heralded in stories or travel to the ends of Middle-earth. His dreams were safe, careful, respectable ones. Having his life stripped to bare survival forced him to discover what was inside and what he was capable of.
He wished it hadn’t happened. But sometimes good dreams have to die so better ones can break out of the ground and grow.
What dreams have you had to give up so better ones could take root?
About the Author
Jill’s love for hobbits and elves comes from her time as a literature teacher and as a lifelong reader of great stories. She also loves an epic challenge and a chance for grace wherever they exist. Jill has degrees in English, Education, and Theology. She is an ordained minister and has served as a worship, preaching, and discipleship pastor. She has published four books previously.
If you would like more information, visit her website.
Her latest book:
Hobbits, You, and the Spiritual World of Middle Earth is available on Amazon.
“Author Jill Richardson may well have been born in the Shire, so well does she know the inhabitants of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. But the truths in this book are anything but fantasy. They strike close to the heart where we all have the God-given desire for valorous deeds and new worlds to explore.”
~Wayne Thomas Batson, Bestselling author of The Door Within Trilogy, The Dark Sea Annals, and GHOST.