One early theme in Attack on Titan that has since drifted away as the inhabitants of the land struggle simply for survival is that of big dreams and bold exploration. Near the show’s beginning, we discovered Armin’s passion for moving out beyond the wall, a dream inherited from his parents. Armin and his family may not have seen the titan encroachment coming, but still, they saw a life within the walls as hardly living at all. While others found the idea foolhardy, Eren shared it, and the idea seemed to be large reason for the bond between the two and Mikasa.
During Eren’s trial, and as exhibited by townfolk and soldiers throughout the series, the idea of doing anything in the territory controlled by the titans was met by fear, apprehension, and anger. After all, what would that lead to but certain death?
What those that are gripped by fear failed to see was that one way or another, death would eventually overtake them all.
A recent sermon reminded me of this juxtaposition, where staying within the safe confines would lead to death, while going to the dangerous land might lead to life. And it involved the two famous gardens of the Bible.
In the beginning, Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden. It was described a beautiful place, but eventually, through sin, it was marred. A place of life became a place of death – immediately through the slain animals and for all time through the consequences of sin.
The Garden of Gethsemane, Christ’s destination of prayer before His arrest, is instead introduced in a different manner. We don’t know what it looked like, but we do know it was the place where Christ agonized, praying to God and asking that His impending death might not occur. It is a place of sadness and grief, at first glance. But it’s through Christ’s obedience to his Father’s will there that it becomes a place of triumph, where Jesus again overcomes temptation. And we know where the story goes from here.
Life inside the walls in the world of SNK is like the Garden of Eden – a place of life that really is a place of death – both likely in the near term as well as in the sense of losing collective freedom. Meanwhile, the world outside the wall, in titan territory, is like the Garden of Gethsemane – immediately a place of despair, but one that could lead to abundant life.
And as with Attack on Titan, the choice of overcoming grief, despair, and a multitude of other sins – selfishness and pride chief among them – is one made by the few. But this choice – going beyond the wall, picking Gethsemane over Eden – is ultimately one that has a lasting result, which is life itself. We but only have to choose it.
This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.
– Deuteronomy 30:19