It’s the end of an era. Or at least, it feels that way. My time in high school has come to an end, and with it comes the end of my childhood, so to speak. I’m in that weird transitioning phase between teenagerdom and young-adulthood, and it’s kind of scary and awesome in a lot of different ways. It hasn’t been easy to get here though. Lots of school, lots of time spent studying, lots of effort. Basically, a lot of work. And there’s a lot of work ahead of my as well. Some of it will be fun; most of it will be hard; can I find a balance? Maybe. But work isn’t merely a means to self-promotion. The work we do in our lives can have a profound impact on the way we perceive and approach the world around us, a theme that is heavily explored in one of my favorite anime, Gundam Build Fighters.
Build Fighters is a very different type of show when compared to the rest of the Gundam franchise. While most strive for some semblance of realism in their depictions of war and international struggles, Build Fighters takes place in a world like our own where the Gundam series is merely a collection of stories told in anime and manga. Despite this Gundamception, the series centers around a sport known as Gunpla Battle, where through some awesome tech magic, players build and battle plastic models of Gundam in fights known as Gunpla Battles.
At the center of the booming tournament scene is the World Tournament, where the best Gubpla Battlers from across the globe compete to prove their strength. One of the most prominent figures (and my favorite character in the series) is Yuuki Tatsuya, AKA Meijin Kawaguchi. Tatusya is a character who absolutely loves Gunpla; his skill in building and battling is nearly unparalleled (nearly). His passion was first kindled as a child, and his background as a rich kid allowed him into the prestigious Gunpla Academy: an elite school made to train the best of the best of Gunpla battlers.
His love of Gunpla didn’t make his life any easier: the Academy was known for pushing its students past their limits as they learned to create intricate models, studied the battle tactics of high-level Battlers, and worked towards pushing the meta of the sport forward. Despite the grueling hours of training and building, Tatsuya was never discouraged, but instead found peace. He’s best known for saying that “Gunpla is freedom!”, a mantra that he repeats in both seasons of the show.
At first this seems like just the kind of cheesy line you’d hear in a typical shounen anime. But as I thought about it in the context of Tatsuya’s life, it forms a striking parallel to the way that Christians should approach their lives and their own work.
Work has been part of the world since God created it, but it’s so easy to take it for granted. It’s hard; it’s tedious; it’s time-consuming; it’s repetitive: we have so many words to describe our reasons to despise the work we do in our various life circumstances. But work is so much more than simply a collection of tasks we complete in order to make money or feel good about ourselves.
As humans, we were created in the image of God, and thus we all share some of His attributes. As Christians, those similarities are made even more prominent as we are adopted into God’s family as His children, and we take on the responsibility of bring honor to our new family by living in a “manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phi 1:27) in everything that we do, including work. The work we do is not merely for our own gain, but it’s to set an example, to show the world how Christ would behave in the circumstances we find ourselves in. As we strive to be like Christ, the work we do becomes less about satisfying us with its benefits, but learning to be satisfied by Christ through the grace He gives us to accomplish work in the places that we are set in. True freedom and joy is found when we do our work for God’s glory.
Paul writes in Colossians 3 that we are to “do [our] work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men” (Col 3:23). The work we do, whether it’s as a businessman, a mother, a student, or anything in-between should ultimately be done to glorify God. Work serves to give us yet another connection to our Heavenly Father, and also give us another reason to rely on Him for our success. After all, who can say they’ve worked harder than God?
It’s not easy to work at times. I know from personal experience that schoolwork can be an absolute drag, especially when you’re working through a subject that doesn’t come naturally to you (anyone else not a Physics buff?). Perspective is key to understanding how to work as a Christian, and it requires a lot of prayer and seeking God to come to a place in your life when you can confidently say that your work is dedicated to God. But like Tatusya, as we keep our focus on the source of our passion, we can find the strength to endure the pains and stresses that come with work, and find true joy and freedom because of it.