What does it take for a person to grow? The answer is varied. Some would say exercise, others would say a proper diet, still others would say a clean environment. In truth, it is never one single factor that grows a person, but a combination of influences in our lives that mold and shape us into the people we are. Each one of us is an unfinished painting; each new experience, idea, and emotion adds a new color to the canvas of our lives, altering the way we look out on life and the situations we find ourselves in each day. With each new stroke of fate’s brush, we are changed. Not always in big ways, but in the minute everyday experiences that slowly whittle out who we are as individuals.
These small, minute colors affect the tint that the larger colors of life will have on us, and whether they will leave us blemished or beautiful. As we live our lives, as we learn who we are, as we interact with those around us, we are in a constant state of change, being transformed little by little into a masterpiece, hand-made by the Master Artist who introduces each and every color into our lives for a specific reason and purpose. For the next few posts, I would like to examine the role that community has in the life of the believer, and how God uses community to grow us as individuals, using the different hues and colors of other people to bring out our own true colors. Rather than looking only at the role of friendship, I want us to take a look at the role of the Christian community as a whole before we narrow focus to the individual level. Which brings us to today’s post, and today’s anime: Barakamon.
In many ways, Barakamon is a story that seems to prove the old saying that “it takes a village to raise a child”. The series starts off with a fairly predictable premise: master calligrapher Handaa Seishuu is criticized for having trite, unimaginative work. He lashes out in anger against the critic who judged him, and his father sends him to a remote island to cool his head and refocus. Typical shounen “hard-work-will-get-you-places” story, or so it seems. Handaa is lost as to what his calligraphy lacks, and intends to throw himself into study. But he neglects one thing: the villagers on the island. Handaa is a very solitary person, having dedicated his life to the study of calligraphy since a young age. But on the island he is forced to be around other people, both old and young. He is resistant at first, but the persistence of the islanders wins him over; he learns their ways, all the little eccentricities that make each person unique.
As the story progresses, Handaa realizes that he does lack originality. By being faithful to the fundamentals of his art, he has failed to step outside the guidelines to create his own style. Rather, he hems himself in, focusing on the work itself and not the joy or experience of calligraphy. But as he learns to understand those around him, as he interacts with them each day, he begins to grow as a person. He learns that his single-minded drive and focus on calligraphy stunted his personal growth, and even inhibited his progress as an artist. And so it is with Christians. We often get caught up in the learning part of God’s Word that we fail to live it our fully with others; we focus on the letter of the Word, and not the Spirit of it. That is why God provides us with communities of other believers, so that we can each grow alongside each other. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Prov. 27:17); as we learn from each other, as we share experiences and fellowship together as the body of Christ, we each grow in maturity, both emotionally and spiritually. And like Handaa, we can grow into individuals who might not know what the future holds, but are ready to take it on, with the help of our friends.