The dictionary defines the word “habit” as “a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up”. We all have habits that keep us going through our lives: household chores, workplace duties, daily personal rituals; routines help to keep us in check and on track as we go about our business. Despite the usefulness of habits, there is a tendency to ignore our more beneficial responsibilities in favor of less useful, more indulgent ones. Maybe it’s skipping homework for anime, perhaps it’s forgoing family meals for business, but all too often in the life of the believer, it’s doing anything rather than spending time with God. For a privilege to essential to the Christian walk, it’s surprisingly easy to take for granted. Sin still colors the way we see the world, despite being saved from the slavery of sin, a feeling that Yomi from Black Rock Shooter can probably relate to.
Black Rock Shooter is a fairly obscure anime: released in 2012 with only 8 episodes, the story weaves an intricate tale of a girl’s journey through understanding her friends, her emotions, and ultimately herself. Mato, the energetic main character, is a typical middle-schooler who tries to befriend her fellow classmate Yomi, a shy, introverted girl who has few friends. Yomi reluctantly tries to push Mato out, but in true anime fashion Mato finds the true reason for Yomi’s closed-off nature: Kagari.
A manipulative golden-haired invalid, Kagari monoplolizes all of Yomi’s time due to the fact that she is unable to walk, and has Yomi keep her company as she doesn’t attend school. Her loss of mobility was inadvertently caused by Yomi: trying to toddle after Yomi’s family car, a young Kagari was struck by an oncoming vehicle and lost the use of her legs. Yomi’s guilt over the incident caused her to volunteer to attend to Kagari full-time: outside of school she never left Kagari’s side.
And then Mato happened.
As the type of person one could classify as “a free spirit”, Mato encourages Yomi to develop her own personality apart from Kagari, and offers her support. Upon hearing that Yomi is making friends outside of her, Kagari completely loses it, and begins to scream insults at Yomi, berating her for being a cruel and unfeeling person. In the end, however, Yomi decides that she wants to be free from Kagari’s tyranny, but promises to never leave Kagari alone. Prompting reconciliation between the three girls, a new chapter unfolds as the page turns.
Yomi’s story mirrors that of the new believer: originally shackled to sin, it takes an outside influence in order to free her from her partly self-inflicted bondage. Where we as Christians don’t “reconcile” with our sin, we do come to understand that part of ourselves better because of Christ’s influence in our lives. Imperfect but improving, Christ’s power gives us a way to become better people and to find true self-identity.
Yomi doesn’t immediately see that, however. Despite being free from Kagari’s domination, her complete submission to the whims of another had become such a part of her that she expected the same from Mato as a friend. Her habit of giving complete devotion in order to feel fulfilled caused her to believe that she’d only be fulfilled if Mato gave her complete devotion as well. This causes a lot of self-doubt and pain on Yomi’s part, leading her to push Mato away as she feels that she might be setting herself up for hurt.
Like a Christian falling back into sin like “a dog [returning] to its vomit” (Proverbs 26:11), Yomi just doesn’t understand the freedom that she’s been given from Kagari. She knows that Mato has given her an amazing gift, but she doesn’t know how to utilize it, and instead refuses it in her blind pain. Christians tend to act in a similar manner: despite the freedom Christ gives us, we find it easier to return to sin simply because we either don’t know how to access the power He’s given us, or we just find it easier to fall back into familiar sin.
Self-made chains are the hardest to break, so hard in fact that most who are bound by them don’t even realize it. The shackles of sin are all too real, even to Christians; we cannot break free with our own strength. Which is why we need a God who breaks chains (Psalm 107:14). The self-sacricificial love of Christ gives us the power to overcome sin and the binding power that it has over us. Our faith forms the key to use that power, leading us to true freedom through Him.
Becoming a Christian, like coming out an abusive relationship, doesn’t mean that we will automatically become great, baggage-free people, or that we’ll completely overcome all of our struggles. But like Mato, Christ pulls us away from a relationship that hurts us into a relationship fueled with love. Hard to fully grasp with our limited understanding, Christ’s love can seem unrealistic, or even scary. All too often we take it for granted, using His mercy as an excuse to commit sin. But each time we fall, every time we push away from Him overcome by our guilt, He is there to comfort us. To reassure us. We are His, and He will never leave us.