This Is the Reason You’re Here 

…I want my life to count for something. And…the reason I’m here is to thoughtfully, faithfully take steps forward in my various vocations. The reason I’m here is to become implicated in the world around me. 

I recently spent a few days in Colorado with a hobbit and it may just have changed my life.  

Okay, maybe it didn’t change my whole life, but it sure recalibrated how I understand my purpose on this spinning Earth we call home. And that, to me, is a pretty big change. If you’ve ever wondered about your own purpose on earth, if you’ve ever lain awake at night wondering why exactly you are here, I highly recommend spending a few days with a hobbit in Colorado.  

Not just any hobbit, though. I’m thinking specifically of Steven Garber, founder of The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation, and Culture. If you google Steve, you’ll see he does have some distinct physically hobbit features. And if you spend a few days with him, you may just start looking at your own purpose in new and fresh ways. 

Because hobbits, I’ve learned, are some of the best teachers around. 

Hiding in comfort 

I’m still processing everything I heard and saw during those few days, but let me gently pull on one thread from my time with Dr. Garber. 

Early on, Steve confessed that he had always considered himself something of a hobbit. This piqued my interest because J.R.R. Tolkien’s quiet, unassuming, happy-to-be-hidden-away-from-the-world hobbits have always been a sort of mirror for myself as well. Given the choice between venturing out into the dark, ragged world on an adventure of import on the one hand, or enjoying a warm cup of tea in the snug confines of an underground home on the other hand …I’ve always leaned towards the second hand.  

And how much has this become the baseline for all of us these days? It’s easier to order takeout than to go eat in a restaurant. It’s comfier to stream a movie from our couch than it is pay for a movie theater ticket. After our chaos-filled days, it feels so easy to resist invitations from teachers, friends, mentors, leaders, pastors – and even from Jesus himself.  

That’s me! Just like Bilbo resisted Gandalf’s invitation to venture out on an important quest in The Hobbit, I have resisted! 

Don’t get me wrong, I want to make a difference in the world and have my life count for something, it’s more comfortable and pain-free to check out from the real world and check in online. Our purpose and calling can wait for another day, right? 

Story after story 

In the face of this struggle, my Gentle Shepherd (Jesus) has been so patient and so artful throughout the years. With every passing season, He helps me venture out a little bit more. But there’s always that lingering reticence. There’s always this dream that I can live life (even a purposeful life) while avoiding connection with the world beyond the places where I feel most safe.  

Then Steve stood up in Colorado, identified himself as a fellow hobbit, and proceeded to gently narrate a simple biblical idea. (You can read his Vision of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good to get a taste of what I heard.) 

Steve opened the Bible and talked about how God has made every human to use their gifts to pursue the common good. And then Steve told story after story of people who took their vocations in life seriously. Christians who reflected theologically on their lifelong vocations and daily faithfulness. Everyday humans who could also choose to show up online with a little more compassion than contempt. 

It was story after story of people saying yes. And I liked those stories.  

To be implicated 

But here’s the thing: Steve wasn’t spinning overly polished tales of shiny-happy people. Steve had this line he repeated over and over: What happens when people see themselves as “implicated” in the world around them? Oh, how I twinged at Steve’s repeated use of that adjective “implicated”: being implicated in the world, being implicated in how the world is and isn’t, being implicated in how the world ought to be. 

Ah! We hobbits don’t like attachments. And yet …those stories. Steve kept telling stories of people he’d met along his own trail who found themselves (often led by the Gentle Shepherd) increasingly implicated in the fallen places and people around them. And, oh how beautiful these stories were. Painful and messy and inspired and delicate: stories of everyday people invited by the Gentle Shepherd to venture out of their hobbit holes and get implicated in the world around them. Businessmen, artists, farmers, writers, rock stars, pastors, teachers, raisers-of-children who found themselves gloriously invested in the world around them. 

Sure, our entire world has been changed by technology. But what if we’re actually being called by God to use that same technology to help change the world? What if the reason we’re all here is to thoughtfully, faithfully take steps toward loving others more in our daily orbits? 

Do you see the painful recalibration? I think we all may be avoiding the very thing God has put us here for.  

Even hobbits must leave the comforts of their Shire now and then. 

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