Konnichiwa! As a teen guy growing up in the middle of our socially-conscious world, one thing I’ve noticed is that words are easily misunderstood. A lot. Especially over the Internet. You can say one thing and assume that someone will understand it, but when you actually talk to them about it they’ve completely misconstrued what you said to the point that your original meaning didn’t get across at all. It’s kind of sad, especially when communication is key to any type of relationship, be it between co-workers, friends, or family. And a good example of what a lack of communication does is found in Angel Beats.
Early on in the show, you’re introduced to the main characters and their predicament: they are all trapped in a purgatory-esque world where they cannot die and they have no idea who put them there or why. They attend school, eat food, and live somewhat normally, but it’s all off somehow. Also, the platinum-haired girl named Angel who’s president of the student council wants to kill them. Seems pretty straightforward. The series follows the group of friends as they enact various plans to defeat Angel and get out of their world…
Aaaaaand each one of them fails.
Cheaters never prosper.
In the end, they can’t really defeat Angel. She seems perfect and impervious to everything they throw at her. Everyone is afraid of her…except for Otonashi, our main character. He sees something different in Angel. Something he believes everyone has overlooked. So while everyone is focusing on destroying her…he takes the first step in establishing a relationship, and spends time with her over some mabou tofu, her favorite dish.
All the best first dates start in the school cafeteria.
And as he gets to know Angel, he learns that she is a human like everyone else. She too woke up in the strange world they inhabit, and she is as clueless as they are as to how they should escape. She’s still struggling in the same way that everyone else is.
And as humans, I believe this is something we all have a hard time dealing with.
It’s easier to look at everyone else and believe that they’ve got it all under control, to look down on ourselves because of our own faults, than it is to recognize that we all share common fears and pains. It leads to a cycle of self-pity and bitterness, because we continually compare our worst to others’ best. And as Christians, it’s even easier to fall into this trap. We all go to church wearing our own masks and on the surface it looks like everyone’s doing great, while we’re all broken inside.
How do we overcome this? Through communication.
There is a reason that a large part of the New Testament is letters to various churches from various leaders, be it Paul or Peter or John. They knew that effective communication and mutual encouragement was crucial to the growth and health of the church. So they made sure to encourage those under their charge, and to remind them to keep in prayer, to help one another, and to stay in constant communication.
In today’s world, it’s a lot easier to stay in constant communication than it was a long time ago. With social networks, emails, and mobile devices, it’s easier than ever to stay in touch with those around us. But with the advent of so many platforms from which to communicate, the quality of our interactions seems to have decreased. How often do we simply discuss the superficial matters of our lives without actually taking the time to dig deep and learn what’s really going on in the life of someone we love?
How often do we talk without speaking?
How often do we hear without listening?
How often do we judge without understanding?
Each of these questions has a personal answer. But the inherent problem is common to all of us. The love for others that should characterize the lives of believers exists through stable relationships and communication, between each of us and with God. As we grow to love God, we grow to love others because He loves others. As we enter this new week, I encourage you to take time to examine yourself: how much do you truly communicate with those around you? Where can you improve? What part does God play in your everyday conversations? It’s an area where we all struggle…but as we struggle together, we can overcome it.