When the first Harry Potter book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone first came out, I ignored it. I wasn’t going to fall prey to smaltzy new fiction that roused my crew to a frenzy. I also didn’t want to get involved in a lot of the issues that grated against my values. I was unwilling to discover the truth about Harry.
One Sunday in our fifth and sixth grade Sunday school class, the children’s leadership talked about J.K. Rowling’s book to the kids, carefully explaining and listing content that conflicted with our beliefs. They discouraged reading the books. We are a fairly large church with a fairly large class. We also had a lot of “Van” kids that we picked up and brought to church. Typically, after 6th grade, you go to “Big” church. However, some of the older van kids just came to our class.
The next Sunday, when all the kids rolled in, one of the van kids, instead of bringing a bible, brought Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. He was probably an 8th grader or a freshman in high school. He was making a statement. However, what that statement was, I couldn’t tell you then because I hadn’t read the book, didn’t know what was in it.
To me, it was a scream out about something. I kept hearing how boys were reading it, lots of boys. Boys who wouldn’t read anything else were reading this book that was causing a ruckus in a lot of churches.
That scene niggled in the back of my head until I finally read the first book about a year later. Yes, I can be stubborn before I move into action at times.
First, you must understand that I am a advocate of breaking and preventing cycles of dysfunction. In 2000, I wrote a program Standing at the Crossroads, “designed to show youths the ways God has provided deliverance from dysfunctional relationships and divorce through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, a commitment to the lifestyle outlined for us in the Bible, how to “pray the effective fervent prayer of a righteous man” in order to change their personal circumstances and the circumstances of their future, how to set healthy boundaries at appropriate age levels, recognize the gifts within, and open their eyes to the world beyond their dysfunction.”
In 2004, I read another book, To Tell the Truth. I stole it off my son, who was reading it as part of leadership training in a Young Life Program. There was a section that talked about the need to lay a basic foundation to youth because too many youths today were not raised in church, did not know anything about God, what salvation meant, what heaven was like, or what a Godly father was like. As a result, you had to really break it down. Imagine saying to a teenager, “Hey, after you die, do you want to go to hell or spend heaven with my Father, God?” Well, when your own father beats you, then maybe hell is a better option. You need to get beyond, dig beneath church language, a language of which many kids don’t know the definition, and make it real.
I finally read the book to see what was pulling so many boys into its pages. I discovered why children of all ages loved that book, what all children’s ministries should teach, to all children and youth—How could a book’s plot wrapped in witchcraft teach a Christian about the mission field filled with. . . . children.
Let me tell you about Harry:
1) He’s an orphan. He thinks nobody cares about him. People treat him really poorly. However, even though he doesn’t realize it at first, there are people watching over him, protecting him, making sure he’s o.k.
2) He doesn’t fit in. He does peculiar things that set him a part. To him, it’s a negative thing.
3) He meets someone with authority who wants to mentor him, teach him to be more than he thought he was.
4) He discovers a special language.
5) He discovers along the way that he has special gifts. There are people in his life who want to nurture those special gifts.
6) He also finds friends who lift him up when he gets down; they’ve got his back.
7) Though not all his peers like or respect him, many do, looking to him eventually for leadership.
Eight) When he breaks rules, he’s not emotionally squashed, but is forgiven, oftentimes. There are times when he has detention, so he is reigned in, accepts that he must do right more often than naught. He constantly thinks he’s going to be thrown out of this wonderful place he’s found, but comes to understand that he won’t be.
Most of you who read this probably spent the day mentoring, protecting, developing your children’s gifts, encouraging and praying for friends who lift your children up when they fall down, struggling to discipline without breaking the spirit.
However, not all children are so fortunate. God’s law tells us to not take advantage of widows or orphans (Exodus 22:22). Ezekial admonishes those who oppress the orphans (Ezekiel 22:7). I think that children of divorce fall under the label “orphans” at times. They are fatherless, sometimes motherless, lacking the covering of protection that comes to families in a covenant relationship with God. Oftentimes, children of divorce are the forgotten casualties of divorce, remembered often as a statistical failure.
I was one of those children. I grew up without the covering of that protection that a Godly father provides. My mom did a great job; however, that special covering was missing.
Rowlins created a book that answered to the cry—for the span of a few days or how long it took to read one book, they went into a world that offered everything they wanted in life. As a child, I craved those very same things.
However, Harry is not real. When the book is finished, so is the hope, the rush of that hope.
But there’s a personal, very real version available to every child, youth, or adult. There is someone very real looking out for you (Psalm 139), who knows every thought, every dream, every hope within. God the Father created the plan, his son, Jesus, is there too, helping, encouraging, delivering. Then there’s the Holy Spirit, which gives supernatural power to situations.
Oh, and God gives the best of friends. They’ll never let you down. We just have to learn to look, maybe in different places.
There are all types of leaders in the world. The Big Leader who was born to handle tremendous responsibilities and pressures, leading all the middle leaders and little leaders. However, even the littlest leader can change the life of one or two people. Isn’t changing the life of one person the biggest job of all? I myself am a littler leader. I am great at supporting the bigger leaders, but I’m definitely not one of the big ones.
And you know, when I fail, when I miss it, I’m not emotionally or spiritually squashed. There are people who will continue to try to smash you flatter than a frog under a tire, but not God, not the mentors He puts in your path.
We’re called to be a peculiar people (Deut. 14:2). My oldest son came home one day. He was in college. He pointed this out—that we’re a peculiar family. However, there’s something special in that peculiarity—a life filled with peculiarly beautiful blessings and peculiarly beautiful tasks, and some pretty tough stuff that requires peculiar handling (a discussion for another day).
I am not saying we should stuff a Rowling’s book in every child’s hand. It’s like cotton candy, a momentarily yummy taste that evaporates leaving nothing of substance in the stomach.
I am saying that within the pages of Rowling’s book we can define the need of a lot of children out there and and better fulfill those needs because they are defined. Step up to the task of mentoring, being a spiritual father or mother, teaching children, besides our own, about the wonderful things in them that God put there and the exciting plans He has for their lives. We can build hope on something real and true! We need to do the job of reaching our youth better or as well as as Rowlings does with her fantasy literature. We’ve got the real thing: God!