The Deep Magic Is Everywhere

For years, in the month of May, as the fickle Chicago-spring was giving way to sweltering Chicago-summer, my wife and I would drive by the park district soccer fields on Saturday morning, smirking at the army of suckers watching as roaming packs of children suffocated tiny soccer balls.

Several weeks ago, we became the suckers.

And last Saturday, summer had arrived early—by 9am the thermostat was pushing eighty degrees. Studies show sustained heat increases irritability and conflict.

My family was a case study.

Aidan hid, scowling, in the shade of a far-off tree, tiny spindle-legs pulled to his chest. Aidan loves to read about tropical climates—he does not like to live in one. Quinn’s shin guards were particularly sweaty and itchy. In the midst of his lament, I wondered if we might have to amputate something. And Caitlin, in all her two-year-old, flopping-curls rebellion, eyed the orange out-of-bounds line like it was the river Jordan separating her from the Promised Land. She wanted in.

I suppose there are a lot words to describe the morning we were having. But the truth is, one word probably captures it best:


We were having a normal morning.

I write a lot about tragedies that give birth to pain and suffering. But I think for most of us, the daily grind of normal, we-have-to-do-this-all-over-again-tomorrow living is far more oppressive.

Normal life fixates us on tedium and discomfort and our dissatisfaction. Normal keeps us focused on the heat. Normal keeps us focused on who cut us off in traffic. Normal keeps us focused on spilled milk and pizza tossed across the kitchen. Normal keeps us focused on co-workers who won’t stop talking. Normal keeps us focused on everything our spouses aren’t doing for us and how the waiter got our order wrong and how the appliances need to be repaired and how little money is in the savings account.

Normal can feel awfully oppressive.

Normal blurs our vision for anything more.

C.S. Lewis wrote a little book called “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.” In his tale, four siblings happen upon a magical world, Narnia, in which the evil White Witch has cast a spell, resulting in one hundred years of continuous winter. In Narnia, normal is cold and uncomfortable and oppressive. The Witch discovers one of the siblings, Edmund, and seduces him into slavery by appealing to his normal appetites for pastry and superiority. Edmund’s fate seems certain.

Until Aslan arrives.

Aslan is the great, mythic lion, rumored for centuries to be the only one powerful enough to break the winter-spell of the White Witch. However, instead of destroying the Witch, Aslan does something peculiar: he offers his life in exchange for Edmund’s freedom. The Witch scoffs with delight at her easy victory.

But the Witch doesn’t know the whole story. The Witch believes she has cornered the market on magic, but she is unaware that there exists another kind of magic, an even “deeper magic.”

The Deep Magic is not performed with a wand.

The Deep Magic is unleashed in the willing, loving sacrifice of one being for another.

And The Deep Magic redeems everything.

More recently, J.K. Rowling harnessed the same theme. In the epic tale of Harry Potter, the evil magician, Voldemort, is ultimately defeated because, although he thought he had mastered all forms of magic in the service of his domination, he had remained ignorant of an even deeper magic:


It was the deep magic of a sacrificial love that protected Harry, when his mother shielded him from Voldemort’s killing curse, trading her life for his. And at the climax of the saga, Harry’s willingness to sacrifice himself for his friends ultimately destroys the evil Voldemort.

In both of these stories, we encounter a deeply broken world, one in which normal, day-to-day life is characterized by fear and frustration and discomfort and conflict, a world in which the characters have resigned themselves to the oppressive norm. And each time, the loving sacrifice of one for another unleashes a deep magic that the evil cannot anticipate nor withstand.

The deep magic overturns everything.

I am not writing today with some kind of romantic, visionary exhortation to engage in the heroic. I am writing today as a reporter, sharing the news of what’s already happening on the ground.

I believe that we live in a world absolutely saturated by the deep magic. We don’t need to read our most cherished stories like escapist fiction. We need to read them like revelations.

Because the deep magic is already being unleashed in the world around us, and everywhere I go I see its redemptive power erupting into the normality of our daily lives:

Somewhere, right now, a little boy is pouring the last of the cereal for his little sister, not because he isn’t hungry, but because she is.

The deep magic is everywhere.

Somewhere, right now, there is a young man waving his friends on, so he can stop and talk with the man on the corner who is begging for change, because the young man knows he is also begging for a tender ear.

The deep magic is everywhere.

Somewhere, right now, there is a mother waving someone else into line ahead of her, not because she wants to spend extra time in line with her two little ones, but because she wants to affirm the dignity and worth of every person with whom she shares this planet and this life.

The deep magic is everywhere.

Somewhere, right now, there is a husband in a marital therapy office, and he’s choking on tears and he’s admitting that he has been unfair and cruel. Because he loves that young lady he married so many years ago enough to sacrifice his pride and ego and all the safety that comes with it.

The deep magic is everywhere.

Somewhere, right now, there is a woman opening her doors to the lost children in her neighborhood, not because she’s bored or her kids need something to do, but because everyone needs a home and she has one to sacrifice.

The deep magic is everywhere.

Normal blurs our vision for it, but it is there, brilliant and breath-taking and erupting in the midst of the normal. To see the deep magic, we must be willing to stop, to slow down, and to gratefully breathe in everything that is happening in the midst of our normal drudgery.

Last Saturday, I took a few deep breaths. I stared up into the vast expanse of cloudless, deep-blue sky. I closed my eyes, and I was thankful for the warm breeze on my skin.

And when I opened my eyes again, there was a magic show on display.

I looked off to my left, where Aidan had emerged from the shade onto an empty soccer field. He had invited his little sister to kick a spare soccer ball with him. His scowl was gone, replaced by a wide-sweet grin. And each gentle, kind tap of the ball to his sister was an explosion of the deepest magic.

And the deep magic had washed away Caitlin’s rebellion in peels of giddy laughter. Completely forgetting herself and her demands, she toppled and fell and landed on Aidan’s chest, tucking her head under his chin with fierce gratitude.

And on the other field, Quinn stopped with a wide-open path to the goal. He waited for a teammate to catch up, and he passed the ball off in an act of sacrifice, passing with it the glory and the cheers.

And moments later, Quinn’s youngest and smallest teammate, who normally hides himself from the ball, emerged from the roaming pack and booted the ball through the net. And everyone, parents on both sidelines, screamed and cheered, because the deep magic compels surprising joy for the resilience of others, no matter what side they’re on.

I had opened my eyes, and nothing had changed and everything had changed, all at once. The veil of the normal was lifted, and people all around were magicians, casting quiet spells of the deepest magic. With eyes to see it and a heart longing for it, the deep magic turned a normal, suburban Saturday morning into a rebellious scene of willing, even joyful, sacrifice.

The deep magic is changing the world—we need only have the eyes to see it.

And I believe that once we have glimpsed the deep magic, we will be drawn to it like a siren song.

We will be drawn to it because the deep magic heals and restores a broken world. And we will be drawn to it because casting spells of the deepest magic changes everything about us. Living in the deep magic unshackles us from the chains of the everyday, and we become creatures free to live wildly and to love extravagantly, in a world saturated with redemption.

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In his debut novel, Kelly weaves a page-turning, plot-twisting tale that explores the spiritual depths of identity and relationships, amidst themes of healing, grace, faith, forgiveness, and freedom.

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About Kelly

Dr. Kelly Flanagan is a psychologist, author, consultant, and speaker who enjoys walking with people through the three essentials of a truly satisfying life: worthiness, belonging, and purpose. His blog writings have been featured in Reader’s Digest, The Huffington Post, The 5 Love Languages, and the TODAY Show. Kelly is the author of Loveable and True Companions.