Watching anime has almost always been a solo activity for me, but occasionally, I’ll get a family member or friend to join along. My family has long been charmed by Studio Ghilbi fare, but recently, I’ve also watched a couple of other series with my wife – first, Kids on the Slope (if you didn’t know, this show is one of my favorites), and now, Clannad.
One the reasons why I enjoy Clannad (and in fact, this rewatching now has me moving it up on my list of favorite series) is that I feel there’s so much to take away from it. It feels as if the story is providing us life lessons, to which we should hearken. Besides the strong emphasis on family and parenting in the series, it also emphasizes the role we can play in loving others. Another lesson I noticed this time around is this: we need to be careful about the decisions we make, because they can end up defining us and our relationships with those we love.
In Kotomi’s arc, we find out about the pains and happiness in her childhood, mostly in regards to how she feels about her parents and their work. Though the young Kotomi is resentful, the audience is likely to chalk that up to her youthful desires rather than to a real issue regarding parenting. And in fact, Kotomi’s parents seem almost perfect – they have the best of both worlds, doing groundbreaking work in their careers while lovingly attending to their daughter.
Of course, none of this is so simple in real life. Working moms have to deal with finding balance and the guilt that may come with being away from their children; stay at home moms, on the other hand, have to push away their own desires and deal feelings of worthlessness. Those that try to split the difference, working part-time, deal with a combination of these challenger. From my family’s experience, there is no easy answer.
This isn’t only true of parents. We must all make difficult decisions that involve choices. And sometimes these choices come down between loving oneself or loving God. For instance, the Bible tells the story of the rich, young ruler (Mark 10:17-27). He’s by all accounts a marvelous young man – in fact, scripture emphasizes that Jesus loved him. But when Jesus requests that the young man sell everything he has to follow Him, living a life of sharing the good news, he walks away unhappy, unable to relinquish his earthly possessions.
Not every wealthy person has a similar struggle, but many do. And by wealth, I don’t just mean those that we in the west would consider rich; the wealthy, when we consider the Bible’s words on the topic (Draggle requested that I refer to that famed verse from scripture about the difficulty for the rich to enter heaven), could refer to most of us who live in America, Europe, or Australia. And when it comes down to it, the choice that a lot of us will have to make – and possibly make many times – comes down to this: do we choose the route of monetary gain, at the possible detriment of family, friends, and even our souls, or the route of spiritual gain, at the detriment of material blessing.
These choices come in different forms and situations for all of us, but the choice itself is largely the same. We need to make the decision for selfish pursuit or that for pursuit of God. The more mature we are in the faith, the easier the choice is and the more we realize that the latter really brings us a resulting joy that the first may not. The faith to make that selection comes with growing up and growing close to God. But even if we aren’t yet that faithful consistently, we can make leaps of faith, which in turn help us grow.
I want to encourage you to make these faithful decisions, even if doubt, insecurity, and temptation are strong. Because in the end, the type of person we become – and the kind and amount of love we express to others – is a result of our actions. Though for Christians, the Spirit will guide us as we grow, it’s ultimately up to us to make the decisions that will lead us down the paths of our choosing, determining who we are in the life. And so the only question, perhaps, that matters when tough choices come along is this: Who do I want to be?