My friend, Amy, has been begging me for the entirety of our friendship to read the Harry Potter series. Now, in the time that Amy and I have been friends, I’ve started and completed my Master’s degree and she’s gotten engaged and gotten married. Our friendship doesn’t have a short shelf-life; we’re doing life together. So, after so many years and so many text messages that started, “Oh, and btw are you reading Harry Potter yet?,” I caved. I caved because it’s important to Amy and because not doing so was a personal insult to her. Seriously. She threatened to stop hanging out with me, and I knew it was a serious threat when I texted her a “Friends” quote which she didn’t text back to finish. So, to save our friendship, to save the unfinished “Friends” quote, I started reading Harry Potter. Which, you know, turned out to be okay because it gave birth to my very first book club experience. And I’ll do just about anything to sit around, drink coffee, and laugh with my friends.
And we laugh a lot! It’s interesting to me as I get older how much I’ve come to value that piece of life – the laughing-at-it piece. Probably because my head is now so trained to examine the broken and ugly parts of the human condition, the parts that aren’t working, that laughing makes me feel like something is still working. Actually, to be honest, I think that laughing with people connects me somehow back to God’s creating heart in Genesis 1 and 2 – created in Love, in His image, to experience the beauty of His glory, in relationship with each other because “it’s not good for man to be alone.” I think laughing makes me feel less alone.
It’s one of the reasons I value my book club – because we laugh together. About the book, yes, but mostly because we like each other and we just kind of can’t help it. It’s the natural outpouring of five women who enjoy being in the same space together. It’s the organic result of reading the same book, but more importantly, of sharing the same life stories. So, while I may not be the biggest fan of Harry Potter, I am a super huge fan of these women and every minute that I get to laugh with them.
When I posted on Facebook that I was reading Harry Potter, another friend commented, “This is me, sighing loudly.” I knew this particular friend would comment because we’ve talked about Harry Potter before and I know how she feels about the books and the kind of theological questions she has about its magical content. Quite frankly, I respect her opinion a whole lot and I think her points are valid. But, those aren’t deal breakers for me, so that’s why I commented back, “Then sigh AND shake your head because I’m in a HP book club. Ya know, because I’m all about building relationships any way that I can.”
I’ve been really surprised by the depth of conversation that’s come out of this book club, because while these women have great depth, we are reading a kids book about wizards. It’s not like we’re breaking down Tolstoy or Kurt Vonnegut for that matter. We’re talking about the Imperius curse and how creepy it is that Mad-Eye Moody’s magic eye can see through clothing. We’re talking about how weird it is the the Sorting Hat has a brain and how gross pumpkin juice has to be. We’re talking about house elves, and trolls, and three-headed dogs. But…we’re also talking about the non-negotiables of friendships, and heartbreaks we experienced as teenagers, and how, like Harry, we’re not meant to do life alone. We’re talking about how pride and ambition and personal flaws can get in the way of relationships and successes. We’re talking about good versus evil, and what makes someone a “bad” person, and how “good” people can make a difference in the world. And we’re laughing. We’re always laughing.
So, okay, I don’t know what Jesus would do with Harry Potter. I don’t know if He’d read it or demand its burning. But, I do know that He applauds the building of relationships, and eating together, and laughing together. I know that when He walked the earth that He met people in unusual ways that often ticked off the religious leaders of His day. I know that those religious leaders sighed and shook their heads a lot when they were around Jesus. I know that all the head shaking and sighing didn’t stop Jesus for one second from building relationships wherever He was. It didn’t stop Him from turning conversations to things that were for God’s glory. Like, in John 4 when Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well, I think there was probably a lot of head sighing and shaking from the religious leaders. I think if the disciples hadn’t been off getting food, if they had been with Jeus when He started walking toward the well, that John might have been in Jesus’ ear saying, “Um, Jesus, we don’t go there.” And I imagine they would’ve been like some of my friends saying to me about Harry Potter Book Club, “Um, yeah, we don’t go there.”
But, I am going to Harry Potter Book Club. Because I enjoy these women and because I need to laugh with them. I’m going because it’s kind of like going to my own metaphorical well, and because I believe that talking about good versus evil, and the foundations of friendships, and sharing our own stories of heartbreaks with each other is talking about things that are of God. And because, you know, I think Jesus is also about building relationships any way that we can.