Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pay Attention to the Map

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

We arrive at last at the goal, the imposing and threatening Lonely Mountain. It stands alone above a desolate landscape, where no one dares live, not even most animals. Where the grand front gates of the dwarven halls once stood, threatening smoke now escapes along with foul-looking water. The dwarves' party now begins to search the side of the mountain for the secret door indicated on the map. Having found it, however, they are so eager to get it open that they promptly forget everything else:

"In the meanwhile some of them explored the ledge beyond the opening and found a path that led higher and higher on to the mountain; but they did not dare to venture very far that way, nor was there much use in it….The others who were busy with the secret of the door had no more success. They were too eager to trouble about the runes or the moon-letters, but tried without resting to discover where exactly in the smooth face of the rock the door was hidden. They had brought picks and tools of many sorts from Lake-town, and at first they tried to use these. But when they struck the stone the handles splintered and jarred their arms cruelly, and the steel heads broke or bent like lead. Mining work, they saw clearly, was no good against the magic that had shut this door."

Earlier in the same chapter, we learned that upon getting closer to their goal the dwarves began to lose most of the enthusiasm for the quest that they had displayed in Lake-town. "Now strange to say Mr. Baggins had more than the others. He would often borrow Thorin's map and gaze at it, pondering over the runes and the message of the moon-letters Elrond had read. It was he that made the dwarves begin the dangerous search on the western slopes for the secret door." In the midst of the many unsuccessful attempts to open the door, it is Bilbo again who sees the thrush knocking snails against the rocks to crack their shells and makes the connection with the map's clues.

We all become over-eager in the pursuit of our goals sometimes, and we stop paying attention to things we have learned in the past, things that just might make the task easier if we'd only listen. Like Bilbo's study of the map, however, taking the time to pray, reflect, and study the Bible means that we will be more likely to recognize the cues and remember what we have been taught in time for that information to be useful on the journey.

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