Saturday, September 08, 2007

How Harry Potter is Improving my Spiritual Life

Don’t worry…no Harry Potter spoilers in here!

So… I haven’t written anything in a while. I have learned that writing is a discipline, and when it got a little harder to write this summer (no internet at camp, no time to reflect on anything…), I didn’t try very hard to keep up. If there are any readers left out there, I will try to do better in the coming months, so you can keep up with me, and so I can improve my writing.

Lots has happened since I last wrote… mostly, camp. Camp was full of challenges and joys, as usual. The staff rocked, I felt more comfortable in my role this year, having done the same thing last summer, lots of lives were changed, including mine, and nobody was seriously injured. I learned about leadership, especially when it comes to facing conflict instead of running from it. One highlight was when Danice, Lindsey and Cara visited from Vancouver. Another was leading the MDT program. (I wish I could elaborate, but it would take too much writing!) It was awesome to build on relationships from last summer, especially with the girl staff – it was so satisfying to encourage them and to have their trust, and to see them serving God so faithfully. It reminded me of why I want to do the MDiv, and I need those reminders so I don’t run away from my calling.

Now I’m back in the Couv, back near my Rock (which is unfortunately covered in graffiti), and back with my roommates, including one new roommate from St. Lucia, in the Caribbean! I start school on Monday. The past week has been a great time to relax, visit the art gallery, volunteer at school, eat and catch up with friends, and swim in the ocean across the street, which is salty, unlike the lake water I’m used to. This morning Danice and I went to the park to pick blackberries. As I tried in vain to avoid the thorns (no pain no gain), I thought about what I should write a blog about, and I decided to share some thoughts about Harry Potter.

My brother Daniel first got my family into Harry Potter. I think my parents started reading it along with him, just to make sure it was kosher, and then we all got hooked. At first I was shy about reading these “children books” – I remember trying to hide the cover while reading it on the bus to university. Now I will gladly proclaim my love for JK Rowling. Not only my love, but my gratitude for the way her writing has spurred me on to follow God, especially in this last book.

Let me see if I can explain this… I think fiction has a strange power, especially the epic, adventurous kind, like Harry Potter. Stories where the characters are becoming aware that their lives have a grand purpose, that their actions and choices could impact the future of the world. If you’re like me, you get caught up in these stories, you’re rooting for Harry and company, you’re emotionally attached and involved in another world. This is what makes you keep reading even though people accuse the book of being full of demonic activity or too predictable in style. You get abnormally excited when the truth and the good are the winners, when life prevails and hope prevails.

And here is why these stories stir us and create longing in us… at least I think this is why… it’s because they are true. They are all versions of a true story, they all point to the truest and forgotten-est of stories. We are the heroes of this story, but we don’t realize it most of the time. For a few hours, while we’re reading Harry Potter, we get a nostalgic longing to have an adventurous, meaningful life, and we don’t see that God has already written us a part in his story, the one He’s writing in history, the greatest story ever told, and that really, a whole lot hinges on us. The choices we make daily don’t feel life-or-death, but they will affect the way the story turns out in the end. If only we could see it through his eyes! There’s so much we forget. He’s put us in the story for a reason, with a purpose and a calling, and with the gift of helping other people with their callings… there are people we are supposed to become, and there is a kingdom that is coming, the good ultimately conquering the evil.

C.S. Lewis wrote that you could “dip” things in myth to see them more clearly. I think God has dipped my own story in Harry’s story, and it’s given me something to focus on this year. I need to live this year with the same sense of holy urgency that drove Harry to the end of his story. It’s like God is my Dumbledore. He knows something I can’t know yet – he knows what he wants me to do while I’m on earth. But if he came out and told me, I might run away, or at very least I’d try to do things my own way. Instead he has set things up to slowly train me to accomplish my purpose – it’s all perfectly timed, taking into account my constant failure and fear. And the training is happening at school, obviously, but also on the bus and in the grocery store and as I eat supper and sit on a rock at the beach. The important thing is to remember that these things are important, and to look for the lessons in them all. Every day, every minute is crucial; there isn’t a moment to waste. (Of course, my purpose is being accomplished even as I’m being trained. This is one of the things he’s hiding from me most of the time so I don’t get overwhelmed or proud.)

So this year, I’m the hero-in-training. And I’m not so arrogant to think I’m the main character of the story, but not so ignorant to think that I’m just part of the background scenery. Right now, it’s giving my life a lot of forward momentum. I really need to read more fiction.

We have all forgotten our names. We have all forgotten what we really are. All that we call common sense and rationality and practicality and positivism only means that for certain dead levels of our life we forget that we have forgotten. All that we call spirit and art and ecstasy only means that for one awful instant we remember that we forget. (Chesterton, Orthodoxy)


Anonymous said...

Well said, Beth. It is this very reason that I wear a Superman suit under my clothes each and every day.

It suddenly occurs to me I may be missing the point somewhere...

But truthfully, I think you (and that other guy, whasisname, Lewis) are on to something. The best kind of stories point to something bigger and hopefully challenge us to become more than we currently are. They challenge us to become who we're meant to become.

Miss ya!

Anonymous said...

thanks beth - that was much needed/ i had an extreme emotional reaction to the last 50 pgs of the Hp and maybe your observations had something to do with that... as always i appreciate your insight. Thank you! kendra

Beth said...

Hey, thanks for the comments, Don and Kendra. Kendra, I think some of the emotional response to that last 50 pages (which I also experienced) comes from the very close links to the Christian story... especially the large-scale battle scenario, and the willingness to self-sacrifice. These are what hit close to home for me.

Anonymous said...

Hey Beth.. Thanks for the email.. it was a great time picking out candy in Ambrose for you with Nate.. a blessing to bless others.. I finally got around to checking this blog of yours, which I haven't checked in a looong time, and was stoked to see a Chesterton quote, from "Orthodoxy". I'm reading that on and off.. it's coming with me to Africa.. Some days the writing is beautiful, some days it's exhausting.. overall, though, worth all the mental strain.. I'm setting up a blog at blogspot, i think, but keeping my other one as well.. are you happy with this, your blog? :P

Anonymous said...

Hey Beth,

I've never read HP. That's meant as a confession not a stand. Your description of its impact on you has tweaked me with the same attraction I felt toward LOTR the first time. Perhaps I shall begin the adventure.

Be well and in touch.