Preparing For An Unexpected Journey
Sometimes Life takes a person on an unexpected journey, one over which he or she has no control. Bilbo Baggins was a quiet-living hobbit who got swept up in the great war of the Rings. “An Unexpected Journey”, “There and Back Again,” and “And What Happened After” were some of the titles he considered for his story. They all work. The journey was unexpected because Bilbo did not initiate it or desire it. It was part of someone else’s agenda. During the journey, Bilbo’s main thought was returning home. Moreover, unexpected journeys do not happen in a vacuum; once they come to an end, there is an “ever after.” Bilbo was so unprepared for his journey he ran out of his house without a handkerchief. That is another characteristic of an unexpected journey. It catches people unawares.
Currently I am on an unexpected journey. It began last summer when I was diagnosed with cancer. It meets all the criteria of Bilbo’s journey in that it is completely unexpected, I want to get back to where I was, and I wonder what happens after. So how does one prepare for an unwanted unexpected journey?
In the book Perlandra by C. S. Lewis, a Martian tells an Earthman of the time he climbed to a mountain pool, the home of a deadly marine creature called hneraki.
“I stood on the shore of Balki, which is the place of most awe in the world. Because I have stood there alone, my heart has been higher, my song deeper all my days. But do you think it would have been so unless I had known that in Balki hneraki dwelled? There I drank life because death was in the pool.”
Life has taken me on other unexpected journeys, and I have learned a few things. One: I do not like unexpected journeys. Two: People are extraordinarily kind along the way. Three: The key to preparing for an unexpected journey is to choose the destination of my heart. I have decided that whatever the journey, unexpected or not, I want to go to a place where my heart will be higher and my song deeper. I do not know precisely what that means or what it looks like, but that is my destination.
Bilbo Baggins “won” his unexpected journey; no matter what happened along the way, he held fast to his heart. He was faithful, kind, brave, and resourceful. At the end of his journey, his heart was higher and his song deeper, even in the face of loss and disappointment. Another characteristic of unexpected journeys–sometimes they include a farewell.
I have learned one more thing. I am not the only one taken on unexpected journeys. It happens to people all the time. This insight, born of experience, has increased my compassion and sympathy for the human condition. It has enlarged my heart for other people. For that reason alone, I am thankful for the unexpected journeys of life.