“It was as this point that Bilbo stopped. Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did. The tremendous things that happened afterwards were as 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.
The most real, the most violent skirmishes are the ones which never see a battlefield beyond that of the mind. They can drain emotions and leave wrecked bodies behind with no visible wounds.
I was recently rereading The Hobbit and gasped when I read the above passage. How accurately Tolkien describes inner turmoil! Bilbo was on his way through the dark tunnels to slay the dragon, Smaug, who lay in the deepest part of the mountain, guarding untold treasure. Bilbo’s magic ring, which made him invisible, was no help against the dragon’s nose and wits.
Many days we feel like Bilbo. There are ugly dragons to slay metaphorically: Real evils, really awful people, real tragedies. They can smell us out even when we try hiding with our invisible rings of avoidance or denial, but the real battle is fought inside. Before we get out of bed. Before we take that shower and dress. While we face making breakfast and do the grocery shopping. The real battle is “going on from there.” It is the moving and the doing while the fear, anger, or heartbreak rage inside and blind us like the darkness of a tunnel deep inside the mountain. All of these fierce battles are fought alone, which they must be, because that is our story. We must just remember that half of the winning begins with the small steps, stumbling forward. Stop, and you lose. Go, even if you must feel your way, and you win.