Severus Snape: the cleverest, sly-est greasiest double agent of children’s fiction. He was a character I learnt to fear while I was in primary school, and to hate when the first film came out. And then as we were constantly given new evidence about whose side he’s on, he became my favorite mystery. Why would he save Harry from death only to do everything in his power to make his life a misery? Why did Dumbledore trust him? What happened with him and Karkaroff? And then when he killed Dumbledore, I thought, "well that’s it then, we know he's a Death Eater." But I had to admit, it didn’t really make sense. Whether he was good or evil, or even constantly changing sides, nothing seemed to explain all of his behaviour.
This mystery lasted through out my teenage years. I remember in sixth form, debating with this guy in my tutor group who was convinced Snape was on the good side. I thought he was stupid. As much as I had to agree that Snape did sometimes seem to play the good guy, surely there was no way a good character could kill Dumbledore? He could not care for Harry and still treat him with such loathing. Or sit by and watch the teacher of Muggle Studies get tortured. Or let students practice curses on first years in the school he was running. He had the power to stop that and he didn’t. No way could he be a good guy. We may have wanted him to be, but the evidence said otherwise.
When the last book came out my sister read it before me. I told her how I didn’t see how Rowling was ever going to tie up the Snape plot. “Whatever it turns out to be” I declared, “there is no way she will have an explanation that really explains everything.” She just gave a knowing smile.
And then I read it. Wow! She did it! It explained everything! And not only was he good. Not tolerable or forgivable or understandable. Heroic. Brave. Arguably the most inspirational character in the book. To face accusation after accusation, to lose all his friends, to live an isolated and fake life, to have to kill the only man who really trusted him, to know his old real friends and new fake friends were both likely to want to kill him eventually. To keep all that going right to the bitter end, totally alone. And all because of love. The video below captures it beautifully.
Which has given me hope when faced with the age old questions that start:
“If God is all loving then why does He…”
You can fill in the end. Some people ask it out of genuine curiosity, or because they enjoy these sorts of conversations. Others ask it to prove me wrong. What amazes me is when people ask me these question with a look of triumph, as though they think I will gasp in shock and dis-guard my faith immediately; because never in 25 years has it ever occurred to me to question why a loving God allows suffering.
How can a loving God allow poverty? Child abuse? The Holocaust? I hope it doesn't seem that I am trivializing these events by comparing them to a children's book. That is not my aim at all. These examples, and so many others, are horrific and I have no right whatsoever to suggest otherwise. In fact, you don’t even have to look to the world to see what suffering God allows. There are plenty of things in the bible that God allowed, or even commanded, that make me go “how can God be all loving then?”
And it's not just things that happen in the past or 1000s of miles away. Let's admit it, sometimes life sucks. Some times people or circumstances or life or even yourself can hurt in a way you never knew possible. And even if God didn't cause it, He allowed it, and that can leave you screaming at Him, "How can you possibly claim you love me?"
And perhaps it is naive to try and compare one of life's biggest questions to a children's book. But I can only say what I have experienced, in my own simple brain, and when I watched the video of Snape's timeline, Snape gave me hope. Hope that one day I will look at those examples of things God allowed and not only say, “ok yeah, that sort of makes sense” but “wow, that’s amazing!” If Rowling can do it, it does seem possible that God can to.
What I’m not saying:
Firstly, I’m not saying it’s a good idea to just believe anything blindly when all the evidence is to the contrary. I wouldn't call that faith, I'd call it wishful thinking or even stupidity. But I’m saying that when some of the evidence suggests something, we shouldn't ignore that evidence just because other evidence doesn't support it. Snape saved Harry’s life. Snape helped the Order. Snape got the Order to come to the ministry the night Sirius died. And, Dumbledore trusted Snape.
And Jesus? Stood up for the outcasts. Forgave the most corrupt members of society. Accepted people that others considered unacceptable. Loved children. Healed the sick. Challenged injustice. And then, the suffering He went through for us. Being beaten. Nails through his hands. Death by slow painful suffocation. And in the lead up to this, when he most needed support, watching his friends fall asleep, run away and deny they even knew him. And if that wasn't enough, separated from God, the closest relationship anyone has ever had with anyone, cut off. How did that feel? Being kept alive to die at the proper moment? But even so, He went through with it. Because that’s how much he wanted a relationship with us. That's love! To be honest, that is way more evidence than there ever was for Snape.
Secondly, I’m not saying we shouldn't have questions. I HATE being told that Christians shouldn't question things. Ask questions. Look for answers. Keep looking! I doubt JK Rowling ever thought, “oh no, people are questioning whether Snape is innocent, I just can’t deal with this.” Errr no! Because she knew the answer and she knew we’d find it. And I’m guessing she even wanted us to enjoy the search for answers. Of course, if all her readers had thought “well this Snape guy makes no sense, I’m not gonna buy the next book” that would have been different. Don’t give up! But don’t stop asking questions either. God made us in His image as people who can search, and can look, and can seek answers for themselves. "The mind is a complex and many layered thing." Use what God gave you and keep looking. You have your father’s eyes!
Cause in the end...
Cause in the end, it will be worth it. Maybe one day you’ll meet Him. Maybe His return is "not merely possible, but inevitable" and maybe one day everything will make sense, and you’ll ask him “so you did love me then, even then?” And neither Alan Rickman or any other actor will be able to do justice to the tear-filled, heartfelt word