The Long Way to a Sacred Text Practice

When I was eighteen, I became a mother. In so many ways, it happened too soon. I was not prepared. Any parent worth the name will tell you that no one is ever ready to be a parent. But when you are eighteen, there are additional challenges — no matter how many people call you an “old soul.”

When my baby came, I poured all of myself into being a mother. It was easy because I loved my child so much. It was easy because there were so many parts of my life that I wanted to ignore. We cocooned in the most basic rhythm of life — eat, sleep, love, eat, sleep, cry, eat, sleep, shower.

There was very little money in my bank account and very little to do in the West Texas town I called home. So we spent a fair amount of time at one of the only places it’s worth going to when you’ve got no money — the library.

If you asked me where I consider home, I wouldn’t tell you an address. I couldn’t even name a city. Really, home is wherever my children are. But libraries have always been a home to me. Any of them. All of them.

The library my grandmother worked at. The many libraries of my schools, two of which I worked in. And the many more municipal libraries that have called me a patron as I’ve moved from city to city, neighborhood to neighborhood.

One story or three. Smelling of Lemon Pine Sol or dusty pages, it matters not. The quiet, liminal spaces where stories are kept will always give me the cozy feeling of belonging. They have protected me, entertained me, saved me, and given me purpose. They are home.

So it was really no surprise that I found myself wandering the shelves of a library with my infant in my arms. I was looking for the book. No idea which book, mind you. I’d know it when I found it. I’m the kind of reader who has to be inspired. It has to feel right. The stars must align. It happens often, which is really quite wonderful.

And the book I came across was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I’d see a movie or two. But I’d never read the books. I had friends that loved them. But given my upbringing as a Jehovah’s Witness, I didn’t read them as a child.

One of my best friends waited in the long lines at Barnes & Noble for the midnight releases. I watched her swallow Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in a single night. Still, I never read them myself. The final book came out within a month of my baby’s birth. Needless to say, I had other things on my mind.

In the nest of still-new teenage motherhood, the time seemed right. So I found the first few books in the series and checked them out. I inhaled them only slightly slower than my friend did.

In the years that followed, I would become a Potterhead. Very few people on the planet could have beaten me at Potter trivia at the height of my devotion. I knew there were problematic parts of the story, but still, Hogwarts felt like home.

My love of all things Harry Potter had waned only slightly when I found the most amazing podcast, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. Each week, the two hosts read a chapter from the books through a certain theme. The podcast conversation consists of a quick recap of the chapter, a personal story relating to the theme, a discussion, a sacred reading practice, and a blessing for a character from the novel.

Now, if you’ve been here for a while, you may be wondering what I’m doing talking about anything “sacred.” I’ll admit that my view of the universe has gone fuzzy around the edges, but I’m still an atheist. In fact, so is one of the hosts of the podcast.

Anyhow, the podcast quickly became my favorite. Not only were they talking about some of my favorite books, they were taking them seriously. They were having deep conversations and creating community. I was hooked. I even joined a local group meeting to do their own sacred readings of the series. Magical.

But then, something else happened. The author of the series I loved so much showed herself to be transphobic — something she doubled down on again and again.

It was one of the worst betrayals I’ve ever experienced. If that sounds silly to you, you do not understand the depth of what these books meant to me.

I was constantly in the middle of one of the books. I stopped reading them. I stopped listening to the podcast. I stopped going to the local group. I stopped buying merch. I stopped watching the movies. I mourned their loss.

But I kept the podcast in my feed. I even took the time to carry over the episodes I had not yet listened to when I changed podcast apps.

Two years passed.

And now, I’m listening to the podcast again. Thankfully, the hosts and community know that trans lives matter and actively speak out against hate in all its forms. So, I’ve been able to enjoy a little piece of the world I loved for so long. Still, it’s tainted.

Happily, I found another series to love during the two years away: the Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers. My love is especially strong for the first book, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet.

I’ve read it multiple times. Most nights, I fall asleep listening to it. It is blissfully untainted.

And thanks to the Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast, I now know how to do more than simply read the books again and again. I know how to trust the text to reveal truths and guide me, rather than simply entertaining me. I know how to give the text my time and attention, so that I can find messages for my life. And I know how to welcome community into my practice of sacred reading.

I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, and now the time feels right. I am going to read each chapter and share my thoughts and insights here. I don’t know what will come of this. I don’t know how it will go. But I know that reading this book this way has already given me so many gifts. I know this practice will be worthwhile, regardless of what it brings.

If you feel inspired to read this book or follow along, I invite you to act on that instinct. The book is The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. I’ll be reading the first chapter, Transit, through the theme of Expectation.

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