Thursday, September 3, 2009

Expecto Patronum

Temptation. Happens all the time. Sometimes it’s something small. Sometimes it’s something that takes everything in me to resist. Imagine a contestant on “Deal or No Deal.” In early rounds, giving up an offer of $112,000 when there’s a bunch of big numbers on the board is a no brainer. The contestant hardly pauses before slamming down the cover and declaring “No Deal!” But later in the game, $112,000 seems much more appealing when all the contestant has left is a chance between $1,000,000 and $50… Does he go for it? Will it pay off? Or will he regret it in the morning? It’s not such an easy choice anymore.

Sometimes, the choice to do what is good and right vs. what is good for right this moment (or the temptation to be reactive instead of stopping and thinking for a minute) can be just as hard.

What makes me believe that I can triumph, is knowing that there are people who have been in my situation before and have made the right choice. I can point to the standard example. After all, Hebrews tells me that Jesus met every temptation I have and made it to the other side without sinning. But in addition to the man who lived a completely sinless life, I know of men and women who have met with difficult choices and made the noble decision. I’ve seen people hold their tongues when they wanted to lash out. I’ve studied corporations that have provided for their employees when it would mean a significant cut to profits. I’ve watched friends and mentors grow and conquer temptations that used to dominate their lives.

Knowing that it’s possible for them makes me believe it’s possible for me too.

There’s a moment near the end of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban that illustrates this perfectly. Harry is standing on the edge of the lake, waiting for “someone” to conjure a patronus and save Sirius and himself from hundreds of Dementors. He’s waiting. He knows exactly when it’s supposed to happen, but he doesn’t see the “someone” he thinks should be there. But then he realizes the “someone” is none other but himself. And when it clicks, he confidently raises his wand. “Expecto Patronum!” A stag appears and sends all the Dementors fleeing. When Hermione asks him how he was able to do such advanced magic, Harry answers, “I knew I could do it because I’d done it before.”

Because of the paradoxes and wonders of time travel, Harry hadn’t really done it before. He did it “before” for the first time. But he knew it could be done. He realized at that moment that he had it inside him to do it. And he met his challenge with courage and was victorious. Just as he knew he would be.

What’s awesome is that once Harry produces a patronus for the first time, he’s able to confidently produce it again. (Almost every time he needs it.) Not only that, but he’s able to teach others to do the same. What once was intimidating and insurmountable lies firmly within his grasp. He can approach that particular challenge with confidence.

Expecto Patronum. No Deal. Temptation conquered.

And here’s a thought: When Harry is with Sirius and sees the Patronus, he thinks he’s watching his father. Maybe when I face down temptation, I look a bit like my Father too.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. ~ Hebrews 4:14-16


  1. Nice post ~ I especially like "And here's a thought....."!!