Jennifer recently wrote about our all night drive from Chicago to West Virginia. I (Scott) did a lot of the driving, too, traversing Indiana and Ohio on lonely two-lane roads while the enormous luminous half-moon rose over the eastern horizon. And while I cruised down those quiet highways, I listened to a sermon on my iPod by Tim Keller. And I’m still thinking about it.
Keller’s text was Genesis 12 and his theme, the Call of Abraham.
Keller says, “Abraham didn’t just live life. He didn’t just go with the flow of events. He happened a life. He lived a big life. He stood against his family, his society, his culture. He stood alone. What made him different? The call of God.”
He goes on to detail different aspects of the call of God (its power, radical nature, and how we receive it). What sticks in my mind, though, are some comments he made about some of our family’s favorite books by JRR Tolkien. While many consider The Hobbit to be merely a prequel to The Lord of the Rings, Keller makes a distinction…
He says “The Hobbit is a children’s book. Then, comes the three books, the Trilogy, The Lord of the Rings. I was listening to a literary critic who knows these books who said the thing you’ve got to keep in mind is that The Hobbit is an Adventure, but the The Lord of the Rings is a Quest. The Hobbit is a book for children and it is more light-hearted. It is an Adventure and the way the literary critic defines adventure is that an Adventure is a ‘there and back again.’ It’s an exciting thing you choose. You go and you have your adventures and have all your thrills and it spices up your life and then you come home again and you pick your life again where you left off. An Adventure is there and back again.
But a Quest is not something you choose, it comes to you. You sense a requirement. You’re called to it because of what’s involved. And you never really come back from a Quest. In a Quest you either die for the Quest or if you do come back you are so changed that you never in a sense really do come back. You’re never the way you were. You changed radically. I want you to know that Christianity is not an Adventure. It is not there and back again. It’s not like I want to have some fun, I want to enrich my life. Christianity is a Quest. God says Get Out … you’re going to be radically changed. Don’t ask Me whether what I am about to do will fit into your agenda. Christianity is a whole new agenda. Don’t say how will Christianity will fit into my life because Christianity is a whole New Life.”
At our “Debriefing and Renewal” retreat in Colorado, our facilitators showed us the final clip from “Return of the King” where Frodo and Company ride back into the Shire. But, they don’t fit in any more. People look at them with suspicion. They sit in the pub peering into their pints, listening to the revelry, feeling a bit ill at ease but nod at each other in remembrance of the suffering they endured together for The Quest. That’s a familiar feeling. Not really fitting in, not like I did once.
And while our family continues to define a great vacation (Adventure) as one in which there is a thrill resulting from living on the edge -- it’s helpful for me to be reminded of the stark difference between Adventure and Quest.
Quest comes from Calling. It involves cost, sacrifice, and suffering. It is for a Higher Purpose. And you will be changed.