Lessons From Bilbo Baggins in the Dragon’s Mountain
UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.
“A sound began to throb in his ears, a sort of bubbling like the noise of a large pot galloping on the fire, mixed with a rumble as of a gigantic tom-cat purring. This grew to the unmistakable gurgling noise of some vast animal snoring in its sleep down there in the red glow in front of him. It was at this point that Bilbo stopped. Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did. The tremendous things that happened afterwards were nothing compared to it. He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait.” (The Hobbit, by J.R. Tolkien)
As I have read the first hand accounts of abuse victims — probably scores of them now — there are several common elements that leap out at me. One of these is courage. Women, in particular, evidence remarkable courage in terrifying, traumatic, and ongoing suffering. They persevere. Though they are so often accused of destroying their “marriage” when they finally leave, we know better. If anything, their tendency is to hang in there for the long haul, and they stay for two common reasons: 1) Their love for their children, desperately desiring to make the family work for the children’s benefit (this love will later be a chief reason they decide they must leave), and 2) their love for Christ and intense desire to be obedient to Him. They are courageous, though they usually don’t realize it. They view themselves as weak and guilty and rather pathetic, all of which is fed by their abuser’s actions and words. But they are brave. Very brave.
Which brings us to Bilbo in the mountain. Smaug the dragon was terrifying. It was the “burglar’s” job to scout out his lair for the dwarves, and so down, down, down he descended in the dark, all alone. The red glow and the sounds told him he was getting closer and closer to Smaug, and that is what eventually caused him to stop in the tunnel. He considered. He thought of home. But then he made a decision. He pressed on. As Tolkien puts it, that was the bravest thing Bilbo ever did.
Talk to women who have endured years and years of abuse. Minds clouded and confused by all the lying deceptions. Their very personhood being slowly and steadily eroded so that they increasingly lose confidence in themselves in most every area of their lives. Talk to them, and then ask them to tell you about how they came to leave their dragon. What you will find is – they had this “Bilbo moment.” Some light came on and they knew that if they did not leave, they would perish, and so might their children. So they decided. And that decision, just like the hobbit’s in that dragon lair, was the bravest thing they ever did. The turning point. All else that followed was as nothing compared to that moment of courage. They won the battle for their mind, and so often we hear from these women that they knew that in that moment their courage came because the Lord Jesus visited them in it.
So, we see how foolish we have been in our ignorance of the thing. Have you ever thought to yourself, “why doesn’t she just quit complaining and leave the jerk!” Or worse, maybe we have even said that to a victim? Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. And cruel. I’ve done it, and I bet numbers of you have too. Further, many pastors and churches and “counselors” lay it on her that staying in her marriage is the really brave and noble thing to do. Deep down inside of her, that idea may reign for a time, but eventually it turns sour. If staying is so right, then why does it make her feel so wrong? Doesn’t doing the Lord’s will work to set the Christian’s mind and soul free, even if it means suffering for Him? But this suffering in staying is bondage, not freedom. It turns sour in her inner being because the truth is, these deceptions are not from Christ.
If you are still with your abuser, please do not interpret the things we are saying here as criticism. No way!! In fact, we are identifying with you in the struggle you are in. Leaving is not always possible at any given moment. It isn’t that easy. No money, no place to go — and a dragon in some cases who has more than once breathed his fire on you — “if you ever leave me I will kill you.” “I will take the kids away from you.” Leaving the tormentor is a very courageous act indeed.
Sadly, as we are all coming to realize more and more clearly – the Christian church is calling it cowardice and sin. Never mind. We know better. We have met the dragon.