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Most nights my family goes through the same rituals – the kids are herded up the stairs (which isn’t easy… they always have some excuse for why they need to do this or that) they brush their teeth, put on their pj’s, and climb into bed. I’ve made it a habit since they were very little to read to them. Over the last few years we’ve made it through the first four Harry Potter books – stopping only because the story seemed to be getting a bit more dark. Lately, I’ve been reading The Hobbit to my eight year old son (the girls were not too interested) as a way to prepare for the upcoming movie, but also to prepare for a future reading of The Lord of the Rings. We’re about 100 pages in – Bilbo has escaped Goblin mountain by tricking Gollum, and is now stuck up in a tree with the other dwarves as the wolves gather around them. My son loves the story – he looks forward to it every night and gets irritated when I quit. When I told him that there are three more books after this one his eyes lit up. “Can we read those too?” he asked, to which I nodded. Then he asked, “Did your dad read them to you when you were little?” I responded with a laugh. He didn’t… and it’s humorous to think about him doing so. My dad did, however, introduce me to other forms of fantasy and myth. My first movie was Return of the Jedi. He and my uncle bought me loads and loads of comic books – Spider Man, The Avengers, Batman, and Ghost Rider, just to name a few. He would even let me stay up late on a Saturday night to watch Dr. Who. I think I was one of the few eight year olds who knew what the Tardus was.
I noticed something the other night when I sat down by my son’s bed and opened the draw. There, next to The Hobbit, was his bible. I paused – “Maybe I should be reading the bible with him,” I thought to myself. I thought for a minute then grabbed The Hobbit, found our place, and started reading. Do I want him to learn to read the bible? Yup. But more and more I’m convinced that myths and fantasy like The Hobbit prepare our hearts to receive the gospel. More than learn facts, figures, and morals I want my kids to strengthen their imaginations. Only then will they be able to see beyond the shallow questions so often brought to the bible. Only then will they be able to construct a gracious posture towards those who are different from them. I’m convinced it’s through our imagination we develop the ability to question the way things are so we might cast visions that point to how things could be. So yes, I plan to read the bible with my kids. But for now I’m content to let him follow Bilbo along his journey. I truly believe that following Bilbo along the way for a little while will make it much easier to follow Jesus for the rest of his life.