The Widow and the Hero Quest

Have you ever taken one of those online quizzes to see which Harry Potter character you are? Or perhaps which Hogwarts house you’re sorted into? Nearly every time I come out as Harry Potter. And I pretty much always get sorted into Gryffindor (well, I guess that makes sense if I’m always Harry).

At first I used to protest. I’m not Harry! I’m not that brave! But those who knew me best would argue. “Yes, you are!” they’d insist. I didn’t want to think of myself that way. But eventually, I embraced it, but I knew what was scary about it. It’s lonely. It’s hard. It’s not glorious or easy.

I can handle being brave. Being brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared. Not being scared just means you’re,  well, you just don’t know any better. Being brave means being scared and doing what you need to do anyway. It’s the rest of who Harry is. It’s the whole hero quest.

Joseph Campbell has a lot to say about heroes and hero quests. Whenever I read a piece where someone says, “if only Harry had relied more on his friends,” or “if only this person or that person had been the hero…” but of course, that would be impossible. That’s not how a hero quest goes. It had to be Harry (well, it had to be Harry or Neville Longbottom, but it was Harry).

In a hero quest, ultimately, the hero has to go on alone. There may be companions, there has generally been a mentor, but ultimately, they will leave the hero alone, and the hero must go on alone. Dumbledore and Harry’s other mentors, they all die. Some of his companions die, too. And in the end, Harry must walk into the Forbidden Forest alone.

This morning I was considering how so many of the people who have supported me along the way have died. My father was such a pillar for me after my son died, but then he died about a year-and-a-half later. My husband was my biggest supporter all the way through seminary, but then, when I was nearly done, he died. I’ve had to go on alone.

Harry had the resurrection stone. He went on alone, but he was never completely alone. I’ve been going on alone, but I don’t feel completely alone, either. As it happens, I was having this conversation with myself on the way to a ministers’ meeting in which I had the opportunity to reflect on how my clergy colleagues have been there to support me in difficult times.

I go forward, but when things are most difficult, Don comes to me in my dreams. My colleagues support me. Ultimately, I have to face the things I must face by myself. No one else can do my work for me, but many others give me strength. God is present in all of them.

Perhaps this bravery is really just recognizing how much support I really have and trusting in it. Ten points to Gryffindor!

That’s all I’ve got. That’s my mite.



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