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From Hogwarts to Heaven} ?> You’ve probably seen a post like this one on social media: “Which fictional world would you want to live in?” Answers abound, from a galaxy far, far away to Middle-earth, from the Enterprise to Hyrule. Hogwarts seems like a pretty common answer. Butterbeer-flavoured drinks abound, and Facebook filters let us proudly display our house affiliations—Gryffindor for me.
Part of what makes Hogwarts so appealing is how much Harry loves it. I’ll never forget the image in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone of Harry jumping for joy and swatting at flying envelopes as they fill his living room—and he doesn’t even know their significance yet. Even small glimpses of magic are better than his dull, miserable days with the Dursleys. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia pretend he doesn’t exist, Dudley picks on him, he lives in a closet under the stairs, and people think he’s a freak when magical things happen to him. When he was younger, he “had dreamed and dreamed of some unknown relation coming to take him away,” but after he receives his letter, his wildest dreams come to life.
As a fantasy writer myself, I pondered J.K. Rowling’s choice to give her protagonist such a terrible childhood. Attending Hogwarts is not a trial he has to overcome; his parents left him both his magical gifting and the funds to afford Hogwarts. And why keep any knowledge of the magical world away from him for eleven years? I realized the answer was simple: to make the magic in her books even more magical—both for Harry and for us.
If Harry’s life had been easier, if Harry had loving parents, nice siblings, and hadn’t experienced embarrassing magical accidents, then Hogwarts and everything with it—leaving home, meeting new people, confronting a mortal enemy, and intense schooling—would have been an everyday matter.
But to Harry-who-lived-under-the-stairs, Hogwarts is a blessing and an escape. Hogwarts represents so many amazing things to Harry—making friends, gaining wisdom from caring teachers, learning astounding skills, discovering his parents, having a house to belong to, and being treated as an equal. A giant, soft, four-poster bed awaits him every night. The food appears out of nowhere, never runs out, and disappears without leaving dirty dishes behind. Harry could never have imagined somewhere so wonderful.
The mystery and magic of a place like Hogwarts make me wonder if there are similar surprises for me in the afterlife. I believe I’ll go to Heaven after I die because of my faith in Christ, but I don’t exactly know what to expect. I know a few things. There will be no pain, no crying, no shame, no death, no evil, no deceit, no darkness, and life forever, for starters (Revelation chapters 21 and 22 discuss that).
How can I even imagine something that perfect? The answer is: I can’t. And it’s hard to get excited about it when I can’t picture it. Instead, I seek the things this life offers. I have a job, an apartment, a car, plenty of food, a loving family, and more books than I know what to do with. I have my friends, my passions, my hobbies. I don’t want to miss out on life’s experiences, because they’re all I know.
Heaven is going to be great, but it feels so abstract. Picturing sitting on clouds and strumming a harp is easier than trying to grasp the truth. But if I believe it exists, shouldn’t that knowledge affect my life somehow? How do I live like Heaven is all I’ve ever dreamed of and more?
I think being unable to imagine its perfection is the point. I have to act on my faith, not on what I can see now. I can stop chasing a better life on Privet Drive when I could be practicing magic for Hogwarts. I can show others the way to a life they never dreamed of.
Something better is waiting for me after this life, something I didn’t earn. And it’s going to be even better than Hogwarts—after all, it doesn’t have villains, a Forbidden Forest, final exams, or summer breaks spent in loneliness. Though I want to be present here and now, I also don’t want to forget about the final destination awaiting me.