Author’s note: If you are not familiar with the characters or story of the Harry Potter series, you can find a good resource at JK Rowling’s website. There is also a clever picture-story of the whole series located here on Flickr.
The Harry Potter series is epic in its portrayal between good and evil. The books highlight just how grey that space can be between good and evil, and it’s one of the many reasons I respect it. On one end we have Harry Potter, on the other end we have Lord Voldemort.
Truly the only sure-fire character who seems completely set in their ways is Voldemort. Even Harry questions himself throughout the series, even though he is the protagonist and the epitome of ‘good’. Albus Dumbledore is also on the scale, and in the first six books we are solidly led to believe he is unwaveringly on the ‘good’ side. Yet in the seventh book we learn about his own struggle with good and evil. Ultimately, he chooses the good. Other characters are not so easy to place: house elves, goblins, Professor Slughorn, Draco Malfoy (or his family), Dolores Umbridge.
Regarding this last character, who shows up in the fifth book, she is truly a well-written character. I think the phrase that sums her up best is this: I wanted Voldemort captured and put in Azkaban, but I wanted Dolores Umbridge dead.
Dolores Umbridge is a character who is not in league with Voldemort, but maintains characteristics that would please the evil overlord. She is cruel, she thinks overly high of herself, she uses pain and torture to teach lessons when she deems it necessary, and she seems to perform all these acts as a ‘service’ to the whole community – to better maintain order and functionality. In the process of doing this, she shares no regard to the dignity or humanity of any of the kids at school. Only those who serve her needs are treated well.
Umbridge and Me
It came to me about a month ago that, despite my hate for this character, I find myself sharing some of her characteristics at times. It’s a shock to realise my tendencies when I’m in a bad place. I’m not saying I use torture or pain on my children, but sometimes my intention behind punishments is not what we would call pure. Dolores Umbridge presents herself as a champion of order and sweetness, but underneath it is vehemence at anything that is not in line with her ideas exactly. The result is rule after rule after rule placed upon the students to the point where they cannot choose to gather together without permission.
How often in my household do I get caught up in my rules and become so terribly exact in my expectations? When is it that I’ve exchanged mercy for perfection? Like that time my child spilled milk and I made them sit there and clean it completely and perfectly, even though it was not completely in their skill set to do so? Or when I’ve demanded perfect silence and they, as children, do not keep it? Or those times I’ve given dire punishments for throwing small balls in the house even though it was not done in a way that would cause damage or hurt, just because the rule is “no throwing”?
Yes, I’ve been there. I’m not proud of it. And these are not even the worst times. My journey in motherhood has gone from one spectrum to the other and back and forth, back and forth. That pathway of the straight and narrow is a windy course, and sometimes I veer closer to the bad path than the good.
Our hope comes from our God who does not act according to what we deserve. We are called to imitate this Lord, this Jesus who instead of condemning us to separation from God forever takes that place for us. While I need to discipline my children so that they grow up properly, I need to reflect more on this exacting desire I have, this Dolores Umbridge disease that sometimes overtakes me and directs my actions. For I am not saved by Dolores Umbridge. Her ways will not bring me or anyone eternal life.
When Harry is confused about his ability to speak with snakes and Voldemort’s same ability, Albus Dumbledore famously tells Harry in the second book, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” We can substitute the word ‘abilities’ with ‘thoughts’ or ‘desires’ and this quote remains just as inspiring. While sometimes my desire is to react in a negative way, if I make the choice to act differently, this reveals what I truly am. It helps reveal Christ in me. It helps reveal the Spirit working hard to convert me, choice by choice. It helps to reveal my trust that God has saved and is saving me, right now.
I am uncomfortable when I look at myself and have a feeling that I am becoming a version of Dolores Umbridge (at least at times). I am glad that I am uncomfortable. It is a great encouragement to know that God is on my side and actively working in me, actively helping me to look at my choices and seek the good. Actively trying to show me that Dolores Umbridge and her ways are not my saviour. That is only found in Christ Jesus.
Do you struggle with some of the choices you make?
Copyright 2017 Jane Korvemaker