Another week, another terrific episode of Shingeki no Kyojin. But at this point, everything still feels like setup and context – when do we find out about some of these secrets (looks like very soon)? When will the troops start fighting back with ferocity (other than Mikasa)? When do we start getting to know the other characters?
I should sit back and just enjoy the series and all the build-up, I suppose, but my anxiety is that the series will conclude without finishing the run of the manga, and I’ll be left out in the cold. Well, if that’s the case, at least we got to see some real development for one of Attack on Titan‘s terrific characters, Mikasa Ackerman.
This week, Mikasa addresses the remaining squads with a speech that half inspiring and entirely condemning. The characters, some reticently, follow Mikasa into battle, but with different reasons in mind, and resulting in different consequences.
Note that more than once it’s mentioned that if the troops just stay there, they’ll eventually die. It’s simply a rational and good idea to take their chances. There’s also a feeling of guilt – those in the supply depot are trapped and dying, and Mikasa is running into battle by herself, so these elite cadets should at least help, right? But when reality strikes again, in the form of the ominous giants (and an out-of-commission Mikasa), many of the soldiers begin to crumble, particularly the guilt-driven Jean, who stands frozen in fear while his comrades die.
However, one soldier stands out by being brave, and perhaps it’s a surprising who it is. Armin uses his best asset, his smarts, and follows Mikasa to assist. Then he sacrifices his chance at survival to help her. This is all totally opposite to his actions previous, where he has reacted more poorly than perhaps any other soldier on the lines (not that anyone could blame him).
But a change transpired within Armin, all beginning by a simple, but powerful act on the part of Mikasa, who offers her kindness and forgiveness to him, immediately, as he delivers the news of Eren’s death.
Many of us, Christian or not, are often pushed into changing ourselves because we find something to be a good idea or because we feel guilty because of the way we act. We might see that we act very poorly to our friends, and out of guilt, we try to change ourselves. Or we might decide that it’s just rational to have a good attitude, because that’ll get us further in life.
Sometimes these motivators can change us…but it’s grace that offers the most profound and long-lasting impact on our hearts. When an undeserved love hits us, an open heart can’t help but feel gratitude and sense of urgency to become more than we are. Sometimes in life, we’ll experience this through others – parents, friends, or even a stranger. But even if we don’t receive it there, we can find it through another place.
At it’s simple core, the gospel message is about a people fighting against God, and a God that says we are forgiven completely, despite all we say and do to him. And that, more than rules or guilty or any other compulsion, is what can change lives. And it does. So when we face our own giants, we won’t back down, because grace will have changed us inside out.