Note: This post contains a major Harry Potter spoiler. Leave now if you don’t know the story and want to discover it yourself! You have been warned!
My preteen daughter and I had a little fight the other day. I don’t even remember what it was about now. But afterwards, she made up to me by giving me a photo of Alan Rickman as Severus Snape that she had cut out from her Harry Potter poster book – which I promptly posted on the refrigerator, of course.
She did this because she knows I have a celebrity crush on Alan Rickman. But deeper than that, I am moved by the character of Severus Snape like few other fictional characters have moved me over the years. Probably because I can so relate to him.
Not in his abusive childhood, being bullied at school, or joining the Death Eaters. But in his tendency to be blistered by the light, his arrogance, distrust of shining heroes, cynicism, even his bitterness.
And, in his allegiance to that same light, his choice to ultimately serve Dumbledore the loving, generous, patient, wise and broken one rather than Voldemort the brilliant, unmoved, inapproachable, awe-inspiring mocker of goodness, the one who traded his own vulnerable soul for (he thought) impervious immortality.
Over the long haul, through the slow burn of my life, God has shown me a face more like Dumbledore than like the dark lord demanding a bloody sacrifice that the theology I learned in childhood implied.
And in spite of everything, I’m willing to do what this Dumbledore-God asks of me. I’m willing to be faithful to his way even when my cynicism and bitterness scream out in protest, mock the good and the true, scoff at the seeming naivete and utter unfairness of the way of love and grace with which I have thrown in my lot. I’ll hold on in faith to the bitter end, but I will never completely fit in or look the part (though I can come much closer than Snape since I haven’t been asked to work as a double agent!).
Harry Potter scholars (sure, why not?!) might point out that Snape was ultimately inspired by love for Lily more than faith in Dumbledore. And this is the part of the post where I proceed to quite likely over-season my metaphor with Christian theology: I would suggest that Lily is the Christ-figure in Snape’s story, the embodiment of self-sacrificing love whose kindness and care for Snape in his youth continued to move him for the rest of his life.
Some of us are prone to self-importance, arrogance and cynicism. We may be the first to scoff at simplified statements of faith. We probably won’t trust you if you breezily assert that good always triumphs over evil, and we are pretty sure that we understand every situation more clearly, since we can see all the way down to the depths of despair, which we believe blind certainty in “happily ever after” won’t allow.
But don’t believe that we aren’t touched by love, and that we are incapable of choosing life and goodness (and even of growing kinder and more gracious in our behavior).
And please, don’t be intimidated by us. We are prone to negativity and brooding and can be generally anti-social, but we still like to sit at the head table with all the other professors, and sometimes our curmudgeonliness is the best way we have to interact with our fellow human beings, to let people know we are here and want to be in contact.
In conclusion, I would just like to say, “Everyone is different. No two people are not on fire.”