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Adventures and Quests

Through the kindness of a mentor in ministry, I received a free edition of the Mars Hill Journal recently. And, yesterday, I had the time to listen to the journal as I drove east bound for Indianapolis. The edition that was sent to me was a collection of discussions Ken Meyer has had with authors, philosophers, poets, and other cultural analysts - a type of "best of" compilation.

One on the conversations was on the role of Tolkein's great works - including The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The gentlemen who was discussing these works spoke of Tolkein's distinction between an adventure and a quest. An adventure is what Bilbo Baggins went on, and what will be displayed on the big screen as The Hobbit. What makes an adventure is that Bilbo goes "there and back again." Or, in other words, Bilbo sets out to explore the unknown for the sake of excitement, but all the while he intends to return home. The journey is to add some spice to his life, but it is not his life.

On the other hand, the quest is a journey that we do not necessarily choose, but it becomes our life. It is something that we are called into, and often times it requires that we leave everything behind with no hope of returning home.

Two things struck me about this distinction. One, I realized that the past six plus years of my life have been something of an adventure. I went "there and back again." I even thought of our journey out West as an adventure when we first began. But, I must admit: I had no idea we would ever return.

This leads into the second "aha". I am feeling myself entering into a new season of life ... the quest.

A gentleman from our presbytery stopped by recently to help Anna and I think about our financial situation, which was something we've been needing to do for a while. But, amidst our pouring over budgets, our goals and our current situation, this man asked me a really direct question: "What do you want to communicate with your church? Who do you want them to be?"

I realized that this was indeed the question I needed to be asking myself. And it goes deeper than my role as a pastor. It becomes, "What do you want your life to be ... to communicate?"

Later that evening, Anna rightly said that we should probably be thinking about the type of family we should be. What do we want our marriage to say? What does our home represent? Or, in other words, how does God want to use us for His purposes? Asking that question launches us on our quest.

And, thanks be to God, I think I'm beginning to see. Pieces are falling into place. Purpose is coming forth.

I believe we are being called to seek the welfare of this community (Jeremiah 29:7). I believe God wants to use our individual gifts, our collective hopes, our home, our work in this place, and the very land that we inhabit to build up these people for God's glory. I believe I'm being called to cease the adventure and begin the quest.

I am hopeful. I am nervous. For we are stepping into unfamiliar territory even though we know the terrain. And - perhaps more terrifying - we are going to face the reality of limits and possibilities. To call a place home is to choose, to decide. It is to be rooted and fixed.

So, I have arrived back in land I know. But, I have a feeling that I have been called back to this place to learn in exciting, novel, and endlessly challenging ways how to really be here.

Seek the welfare of the community. When it prospers, so will you.



  1. Wes,
    I too have been on an adventure. I told Dave that when we married and I moved up here. 10 years later I feel like it has been a quest. I am so glad that you came back home to these familiar grounds and we are all excited about our future! God bless you and Anna and the insight your young family has!


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