I’m from The Shire. Ayrshire, they call it. It’s Lowland Scotland with a view of the beginnings of the Highland fault line as you look over the Clyde Estuary to the Isle of Arran, where my family are from. The view on the right is imprinted on my brain/heart.
Growing up in Ayrshire was a mixed bag for me. Home life was very difficult and I understand many years later just how it has impacted my life as a grown man. There was a lot of harshness, poverty, violence and unhappiness. That was the reality at home.
However, there was the other side of The Shire which I found mainly in solitude. As a boy I’d cycle the lanes and back roads – I know them like the back of my hand. I can take you to quiet river spots, pieces of high ground with stunning views, long sandy beaches with peaceful secluded dunes. I could take you to the places where as a young teenager I read my ‘first bible’ before knowing much about Jesus – the created world itself. It was in all those places that I knew I could retreat to and find nourishment and where I could be myself – where I’d write music, read, think, people-watch.
Leaving The Shire has always been difficult for me, almost as difficult as living in it was! What an irony! I totally dislike the dislocation from Scotland – much of my heart is there. But it’s to adventures I’ve been called by God and he arranges the tasks, the places and the timeframe, regardless of how much I understand them. It’s a common thing for Scots to pine for home (pardon the pun). I think that’s why we’re like Hobbits. Always wanting to be back in The Shire but called away to do exploits!
So, I was late to the Lord of the Rings party but totally get Frodo and Bilbo…! Truth is that staying home in the comfort of The Shire wouldn’t have made me the man I’ve become. For good or ill, my travels have shaped me, and I’m sure this next chapter will too. Jesus mission is the driving passion and I’ll go to the ends of the earth for him. In him I’m always at home.
- All that is gold does not glitter,
- Not all those who wander are lost;
- The old that is strong does not wither,
- Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
- From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
- A light from the shadows shall spring;
- Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
- The crownless again shall be king
– J R R Tolkein