Elijah & the SAT, excerpt 2
I’m not what you’d call a Harry Potter fanatic. It’s not a religious issue for me— I read the first book and loved it; I just didn’t feel a need to keep going. My husband Lon, on the other hand, was one of those who couldn’t get enough, pre-ordering each new release. Graham stopped after three or four of them. His sister, Remy, listened to one or two. But Lon, he read them all and even bought the entire series on audiotape for family road trips, a fact that I shared with a Benedictine monk friend of mine at lunch one day.
“Really?” Father Luke said, betraying a boyish enthusiasm. “Could I borrow them?” This is a man who is an MD, an M. Div., an ordained priest, and an Oxford-educated Ph.D. He spends his days driving back and forth between a monastery and a seminary where he teaches mystical theology, medical ethics, the wisdom of the early Desert Fathers, and lectio divina, the ancient prayer practice of listening for God’s word in daily scripture readings. “I could listen to them in the car while I’m driving,” he said, an image which gave me as much delight as a Christmas stocking.
There are three things from Harry Potter I’ll never forget. One was little closet that Harry was forced to live in under the stairs, and how his seclusion and rejection and utter lack of extra-curricular anything could somehow only lead to greatness. The second was the train that whisked them all off to Hogwarts. I love any story with a train. Secretly I’m hoping there’s a plan to let me make my final exit on some celestial version of the Orient Express. For all my talk of the joys of solitude and prayer closets, I’m still a sucker for a man in uniform saying, “Will there be anything else, Madame?”
But the idea that I loved most profoundly from Harry Potter is the concept of the Sorting Hat. What could be cooler than a supernatural body of wisdom far greater than our own—a force that knows who we are and what we can do and which House we need to be in for all of that to unfold—and just like that, it speaks the Word aloud and our one, true life begins? The moment we hear it we know that any other House would have been folly because there can be no greater life for us than stepping moment to moment along our own wholly-customized path. I think we love the Sorting Hat because each one of us is, to varying degrees, afraid that we’ll get it wrong, this thing; life. But most of all, I think we long for a Sorting Hat because despite all our bluster about charting our own course and seizing the day and being the masters of our own destiny, deep down we suspect that, much like our One True Love, there is actually such a thing as a Life we were Meant to Lead and, wish from the bottom of our drifting souls, that someone would tell us what it is.
Available on Amazon, Feb. 1, 2014, Stewart Press.