“Where did you go?”
“To look ahead,” said Gandalf.
“And what brought you back…?”
The wizard responded: “Looking behind.”

~The Hobbit


It was only for a moment, but for me its memory will last. Having just finished grading some exams, I was bored. In search for a cure, I decided to check out the blogosphere to see what sacred evangelical cow Sprinkle had decided to slay this week.

Hobbit 2About this time, Cheetoh, my redheaded nine-year-old son, bounced up the stairs to say he was going to bed early so that he could read The Hobbit. By “read”, he really meant “struggle with” since much of the vocabulary therein confusticates him. In fact, he has been inching through There and Back Again for a while now.

To be honest, I usually would have been so self-absorbed that I would’ve quickly kissed him and dismissed him in order to get back to the blogs. But God interrupted. I sensed the Spirit leading me to read some of the book with him.

To my shame, my son seemed surprised by the offer. So as not to give me a chance to change my mind, he popped the book in my lap and plopped down by my feet. I flipped to the bookmarked page and began to read. It was the part of the story where Bilbo realizes that he had slept through breakfast and that the dwarves had left him behind.

As I continued to read, something happened. One by one my other children came up, and (as if enchanted) they settled down to listen. As Bilbo’s living room had been full of unexpected dwarfs, now my bedroom became filled with my five little hobbits and their dog.

All of the sudden a snapshot of the event came to my mind, and then this thought crossed it. “More than anything else, these seemingly mundane moments are the glorious highlights divinely ordained for my life.”

Hobbit 1For just a moment, it seemed that time had suspended. And I didn’t want to stop reading. I was afraid that once I shut the book time would run full tilt. Soon my little princess will be grown and gone. I desperately wanted to keep turning those paperback pages for I knew that after I stopped, perilous adventures would soon be knocking on my boys’ doors to take their smelly, hairy feet far away from my Shire.

As I look ahead it scares me: I know their roads will be littered with trials and scattered with trolls. Without me, my children will have to face slippery Smeagals and deadly Smaugs. But I pray that no matter how far ahead God calls them to go, when they look behind, their memories will bring them back to family moments like these—and they will give them strength.

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Dr. Dodson teaches for Eternity Bible College and also serves as an associate professor of Biblical Studies at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. He received his Ph.D. in New Testament from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland and was a guest researcher at the University of Tübingen in Germany. Joey is the author of A Little Book for New Bible Scholars with E. Randolph Richards; and The 'Powers' of Personification. Joey has also written a number of articles for academic journals as well as essays in various volumes. Moreover, he is the editor of Paul and the Second Century with Michael F. Bird; and Paul and Seneca in Dialogue with David E. Briones. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @jrrdodson.


  1. Beautiful post, Joey. One of the great benefits of reading to my kids is they have all turned into readers, which continues to further our relationships as we compare notes on our current literary interests. And of course my daughter’s voracious reading habits prepared her for the Foundations curriculum here at EBC, where they read about five shelf-feet’s worth of books over the course of five semesters. (That’s librarian talk.)

  2. This post was fantastic! I experienced a similar enchantment while reading “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe’ on the lawn of The Getty Center. As I read out loud to my girlfriend, children, unrelated to me, fell into an entranced semicircle and listened. Stories are magical. Chesterton explained, “Fairy tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water.”

    Thank you for sharing your life with us, it was a joy to experience such grace.