“Maybe Treebeard’s right. We don’t belong here, Merry. It’s too big for us. What can we do in the end? We’ve got the Shire. Maybe we should go.”
“The fires of Isengard will spread. And the woods of Tuckborough and Buckland will burn. And all that was once green and good in this world will be gone. There won’t be a Shire, Pippin.” –A conversation between Pippin Took and Merry Brandybuck in The Two Towers movie version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.
For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 (NASB)
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s world of fantasy, hobbits were often called “halflings” because of their small stature and fear of adversity. While men were bold and brave and fit for war, hobbits appeared to be insignificant in the grand scheme of life. However, in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, a hobbit by the name of Frodo Baggins was assigned the task of destroying a golden ring that had been forged by the evil Sauron to rule over all of Middle Earth.
Because of—rather than instead of—his small stature, Frodo succeeded where many gifted and well-trained warriors had failed. The book series is, of course, a work of fiction, but Tolkien, as a devout Christian, creatively used fantasy to effectively illustrate complicated spiritual truths. His books are pregnant with meaning!
The concept of a halfling corresponds to reality in the form of men and women who fail to measure up to human standards of genetic superiority. God does not limit Himself to work through only those who fall short of this world’s standards, but He is in the habit of doing so.
The Creator of the Universe delights in using “human halflings” to accomplish His grand purposes. Why? Those confident in their own wisdom and ability are readily prone to pride. A human halfling fully understands his or her limited ability and therefore learns to effectively abide in the empowering grace of God. In the end, they accomplish feats of glory that far surpass anything humanly possible.
The Halfling Problem
As exciting as their potential sounds, halflings have an inherent problem—most possess an innate sense that only those of “full stature” can be champions for the kingdom of God. A halflings, then, tends to live in the world of shadows, pursuing a comfortable existence and avoiding unnecessary difficulties (and adventures). Their purpose (in their own eyes) is not to change the world, but to cheer on the gifted few.
All too rare is the human halfling who understands that greatness is not found in the person, but in the great God who willingly empowers His people.
Picturing themselves as grasshoppers in a world of giants, those who fall short of this world’s standards are particularly susceptible to fear and anxiety. Perhaps this is where Tolkien’s imagery is most powerful. That which is improbable—no, virtually impossible is a better term—can become reality because our God has destined us for victory.
We Are All Called
None of us are exempt to the call to advance God’s kingdom. We must care (not simply to protect our self-interests) because God’s heart is bound up in the welfare of humankind.
Those who truly love God cannot help but to move forward in service to our King. Whether we are large or small, strong or weak, gifted or lacking in talent, we are all members of God’s mighty army. There is, however, one quality that we dare not lack and that is courage.
Is this to say that we will never be afraid? Absolutely not! And yet, we must squarely face our fears, which will buckle under the weight of God’s love. We fight in a life and death struggle between the kingdoms of darkness and light; we dare not attempt to avoid the conflict by hiding in our own personal Shire.
Our Lord calls us to courageously move forward, step by faltering step, even when the dark storm clouds gather. When we live in obedience to our sovereign King, He will always make a way where there is no way, forever extending abundant grace to His emerging overcomers.
This post is drawn from Chapter Fifty of Bob’s devotional: Champions in the Wilderness—Fifty-Two Devotions to Guide and Strengthen Emerging Overcomers