The Sorting Hat

Life is full of burdens. Some we scarcely realize, because we’ve grown accustomed to them. We can’t remember when we didn’t carry them. One burden, shared by all believers, every day of their lives, is trying to determine God’s will. 

It’s not a light load, but picture the alternative, one which unbelievers must port. If there is no God, you’re free to make whatever decision you like, using whatever wits you have. Sounds wonderful, but bravely look to the end. If every choice is free of the divine, no choice really matters. If your world spins through space without meaning, your choices fly from you like dust in the wind, but that gust of absurdity will claim you as well.

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We believe that we’re responsible to God for our choices. But how do we know what God wants? Counselors, confessors and coaches can help, but wouldn’t it be nice if we had attended a school that made discernment as easy as donning a hat? 

At a place called Hogwarts you put on a hat that sings:

Oh, you may not think I’m pretty,
But don’t judge on what you see,
I’ll eat myself if you can find
A smarter hat than me.
You can keep your bowlers black,
Your top hats sleek and tall,
For I’m the Hogwarts Sorting Hat
And I can cap them all.
There’s nothing hidden in your head
The Sorting Hat can’t see,
So try me on and I will tell you
Where you ought to be.
 

Christians don’t discern by donning something external to ourselves. We don’t look to the heavens for a sign, or listen intently for a whispered word of instruction. God rarely enters our lives that way. Why not? 

Because with God distance matters. If God were made absolutely manifest that would establish God’s existence, but what would be left of us? What happens to our freedom? If each day we took instructions from the sky, would we be humans or automatons?

God doesn’t need to appear in front of us, because God already dwells within us, which is not to say that everything is left up to us. We need to recognize, within ourselves, the gap between who we are and who we want to become, because that gap is where the will of God is made manifest. 

The French existentialist philosopher Gabriel Marcel said that the call of God

comes both from me and from outside me at one and the same time; or rather, in it we become aware of that most intimate connection between what comes from me and what comes from outside, a connection which is nourishing or constructive and cannot be relinquished without the ego wasting and tending towards death.

God sows dreams within us. When our hearts are purified by prayer and the sacraments—though that is no small task; it takes a lifetime—we follow God by pursuing those deep desires, those insistent intuitions that are already evident to us. 

This is why Christ can say to us

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light (Mt 11: 29-30)
 

Christ asks only that you become the person you were meant to be, the one of whom the Father dreamt, before hills were set in place or stars hung in the heavens. 

Accepting the yoke of Christ doesn’t mean that our lives will not be difficult, but to persevere is to find both ourselves and God. One more French philosopher. Gustave Thibon wrote of our yoke:

You feel you are hedged in; you dream of escape; but beware of mirages. Do not run or fly away in order to get free: rather dig in the narrow place which has been given you; you will find God there and everything. God does not float on your horizon. He sleeps in your substance. Vanity runs, love digs. If you fly away from yourself, your prison will run with you and will close in because of the wind of your flight; if you go deep down into yourself it will disappear.

We don’t require a sorting hat to know the will of God, but there is a deep truth in the story of Harry Potter. Each of us has an identity, each has been marked for a mission, one given to us by God. To accept it is to embrace life itself. And the alternative? It should not even be spoken!

Zechariah 9: 9-10    Romans 8: 9, 11-13    Matthew 11: 25-30

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Bruce Snowden
4 years 8 months ago
"Each of you has an identity", as Terrance W. Klein says. I like that information. The Spirit also says, "I have called you by name." I like that information too. It's an identity singularly given and owned, a name that no one else has, a name no one else can know, a name just between God and me (whomever), a kind of "love-name" between parent and child, written as Scripture says "on white pebbles." I don't understand the "white pebbles" reference, but I think Ps. 139:1-24 pretty well ties things together. I'd like to know my name, which must be connected to one's personal identity, the two probably linked together as ONE., non-conflictual, bonded into a gentle, free moving sinewed relationship.

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