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Mr. Butterbur: The "Too Busy" Servant

     "'Well, now, what was I going to say?' said Mr. Butterbur, tapping his forehead. 'One thing drives out another, so to speak. I'm that busy tonight, my head is going round.'"  (Barliman Butterbur, The Lord of the Rings)

Mr. Butterbur: The "Too Busy" Servant

The next stop for the hobbits is "The Prancing Pony" in the town of Bree, which is still, technically, part of the Shire. Bree is described as a crossroads between the two cultures, that of mankind and of hobbits. Dwarves are also mentioned, although only briefly, and elves, but only by way of news. They don't stay in Bree, at least not in any of their dwellings. The ally that the hobbits find in Bree is an overworking, underachieving innkeeper by the name of Butterbur. Oddly enough he reminds me of Martha, and in so doing, many of us.

Mr. Butterbur is so busy with his guests at the inn that he really finds that he has little time for them. To put it another way, he spends so much time trying to meet the needs of those at his inn that he really has no idea of what those needs might be, especially if they happen to be crucial. We learn later that Gandalf had charged him to deliver a message to Frodo, traveling under the name of Mr. Underhill, should Frodo arrive there before Gandalf returned. The message was to entrust themselves to a Ranger who is called Strider.

We learn this message is important, and had certain circumstances not occurred it is altogether possible that no introduction would have been made. You see, Butterbur, for all his sincerity of service, was actually too busy to be of any service. Sometimes we need to slow down in order to find the path we're supposed to walk. David wrote in the Psalms, "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path". (Psalm 119:105) David was also one who disciplined himself in the art of "waiting on the Lord". He "meditated" on God's Word. He slowed himself down. Only then was he able to serve God the way God wished for him to serve. Isaiah writes in Isaiah chapter 40 verse 31, "But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

Butterbur had not learned this truth to overcoming. Instead he plowed away under his own power and his own understanding. In doing so it almost proved fatal for the hobbits. Let's not be too harsh on Mr. Butterbur, however, for I suspect that we also have acted much like him. Instead of waiting upon God for wisdom, direction and strength, we tend to push forward in our own wisdom, going in meaningless circles, which is actually good because we're moving under our own meager strength. We cannot best the enemy in our own strength.

Not a single character in The Lord of the Rings had strength within them to accomplish the task that was placed before them. Their strength seemed to come from others, or from some unseen place. So it is with Christians. We must not get so caught up in the doing that we neglect the One who gives us the strength to DO! This is the lesson we learn from Mr. Butterbur.

Let us learn to feast upon the Word of God, to WAIT upon Him, then to move forward under His direction and His strength. Then and only then can we truly be useful servants. This is how Butterbur reminds me of Martha, someone I actually admire. She and her sister Mary were entertaining Jesus and His disciples in one account, where Mary sat down and listened to the teachings of the Lord. Martha busied herself with the chores needed around the house. She became resentful and asked Jesus to tell Mary to get to work, (in so many words). Instead Jesus told Martha that Mary had chosen the better path. Mary was like Aragorn in the tavern, watching and learning, waiting for the right time to work. Martha was like Butterbur, busy with things that really didn't matter. Let us strive to be a waiter and a watcher, one who does not go out to the enemy until they are prepared. Let us also wait, and when the time is right, may we then strike out with the full force of His love as it shines through us in all its supernatural strength.

     "And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:41,42)