“…I know I don’t look it, but I’m beginning to feel it in my heart. I feel thin; sort of stretched like butter scraped over too much bread. I need a holiday, a very long holiday…”

— Bilbo Baggins – The Lord of The Rings / The Fellowship of The Ring

Over the years, there have been specific quotes in certain movies, that have resonated with me on different levels. The one quoted above provides a counterpoint to a few things I have experienced over the last month and a half. At the risk of sounding immodest, I consider myself a level-headed individual and not prone to irrational displays; at least not the sort that would cause a defined aberrant reaction.

I am also allergic to pain. Emotional; physical; psychosomatic; it does not matter. I personally believe most, if not all people, have an aversion to pain on some level. I am yet to meet a person who is immune to its influence. Depending on the severity of the application and type of pain, one could break out in fits of pouting, whining, stubbornness, confusion, grief, anger and yes even tears, among many others.

I like to cook. Well, I tell myself that thing I do to prepare a meal, actually passes for cooking. Several weeks ago, I was in the process of assembling ingredients for a dish I had made (successfully) many times before. The lead up to all of this also involved running around dealing with unrelated errands. Now, at this point in the narrative, for those reading this who are adept at multi-tasking, you may have a bit of a challenge accommodating what I am about to say next.

I am what some may describe as a contemplator. I tend to ruminate and cogitate. Basically I think. A lot! I would consider a thing from every angle possible in order to come to a defined conclusion. The problem that occasionally arises is that definitive conclusions for some of my thought processes are elusive at best; non-existent at the worst. What generally ends up happening (at least in the viewpoint of others) is that I seem to take too long to come to a decision on any given subject at hand. While the wheels are turning over in my head, it does not come as any surprise that I may miss things now and again.

This particular case in point had to do with getting home from the grocery store with the aforementioned ingredients, in order to prepare a meal for my wife who was returning home from out of town. I arrived home and began preparations. Vegetables were taken out and washed, sliced then put aside. Next, the meat was unpackaged, cut up and seasoned. The stove was turned on and Olive Oil was measured into a sauce pan that was then placed on one of the elements. Turning back to attend to other side dishes which I proudly assumed would complement my culinary masterpiece, I was struck by a thought (go figure). The thought then translated into a subliminal undercurrent of fear and then paused just below the threshold of panic. It had just occurred to me that while I was merrily shopping for groceries, I had taken my iPad with me. Any inherent contemplative tendencies instantly evaporated, as I realized I had not come back home with it. In fact, coming into view in my mind was the exact location where I had left it. In a shopping basket I had placed on the floor while waiting in the cashier’s check-out line.

With this mental imprint providing more than enough motivation, I immediately grabbed the car keys and made haste back to the grocery store. Upon arriving there, I went directly to the check-out line I had used, to see if per chance, the iPad was still there. Not a tablet in sight. Then, approaching the lady by the cash register, I asked with mounting trepidation, if anyone had seen or turned in an iPad. She said she did not think so, but then she called the office and joy of joys, it had been turned in. So, after retrieving it and clutching it like some mother with a returned lost child, I retraced my steps home; which was only a 3 to 4 minute drive away. After parking the car and walking up to the front door, I started to hear whistling in my ears. Not paying much attention to it, the closer I drew to the front door, the whistling transformed into a high frequency pitch.

Do you recall that previous undercurrent of fear that had stopped short of the threshold of panic? Well, not only did it refuse to wait anymore, it promptly changed clothes and proceeded to break all previous land speed records in getting to the Panic Zone. Contrary to popular opinion, time does not slow down when one faces adrenaline-inducing stimuli..it comes to a complete standstill. Opening the front door I was met with the full onslaught of sound, smell and no sight. The sound was from the fire alarm going off, and just in case I missed that subtle indication, it was also screaming at me in French and English, informing me that there was a fire taking place. The smell was that of acrid smoke mixed with one of nature’s tastier fossil fuels; Olive Oil. The lack of sight was due to the fact that white smoke was billowing throughout the house and somewhere inside, amidst the cacophony of noise, our white (now totally camouflaged) dog was cowering, trying to figure out how she ended up in Hades.

Jumping ahead 10 minutes, after all the windows and doors were opened and fans were set to full blast, the walls and rest of the house came into view; along with the dog. Taking stock of the results of my involuntary attempt at scorched earth theory, my other threshold of panic being held at bay was how to convince the soon arriving wife, that I had not been playing with a flamethrower in the kitchen. With melted cabinet doors above the stove; blackened stove and adjacent walls as well soot throughout the main and upper floors, especially on the ceilings, I briefly entertained the panicked (and yes, idiotic) notion of blaming the dog. Fortunately she is too cute to get mad at. And so began six weeks (and counting) of insurance estimates; removing everything .. I mean everything .. from the house, along with dealing with work and life in general.

We take a great risk being ungrateful if we succumb to the feeling that all of this is burdensome. Inconvenient, yes, but we are extremely grateful that no one was hurt and we did not lose our house. Bilbo The Hobbit claimed to have lived over a “hundred and eleventy” years and in that time he had experienced multiple adventures. Most were thrust upon him not by his own choosing. They tested his mettle; his patience; his loyalty; his faith in himself and in others. In the end he came full circle. Starting and finishing in his home in The Shire. At times we are going to have challenges put upon us that test our fortitude. If a very short individual with extremely large hairy feet, can travel There and Back again, then maybe we can learn something from his example. We need to remember that Bilbo Baggins in spite of being just a Hobbit; was  instrumental in bringing down a fearsome dragon that could easily have used him as a toothpick.

Rom 8: 36-37 – For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.