If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.
– Jesus (Luke 14:26)
Wolf Children is a film experience. From the way Hosoda artfully demonstrates the passage of time to his wonderfully fluid animation, and from (very) uncomfortable scenes to poignant moments, the film is absolutely memorable. One facet I enjoyed most was seeing Ame and Yuki take such right turns, both from who they were when they were younger and from each other. Ame’s storyline is perhaps more interesting, as he transforms from a scared little boy to a more instinctual and brave creature (Warning: spoilers ahead).
Hana, Yuki and Ame’s mother, is at first very open to Ame’s changes, as she is very unsure of how to rear her cubs within their father’s heritage (some reviewers have focused on this theme). But when she becomes aware that Ame has chosen to leave their family and become fully wolf all the time, Hana tries with all her motherly might to stop him. And through it all – through tears, emotional verbal exchanges, and physical injury, Ame is resolute. He has made his decision, and he will leave his human family to join an animal one.
It’s this resolution that is often lacking when we jump into a hobby or lifestyle. While our emotions may say we’re “all in,” our motivations sometimes slow or cease entirely, and we oftentimes see little change in our life from a project or idea that had once consumed us. In fact, at this time of year, we might look back to 365 days ago and find that we haven’t changed much, although we may have intended to.
When it comes to Christianity, Jesus is very clear about this lukewarm commitment – He doesn’t want any of it. Jesus explains this idea in a couple of short stories, including this one:
Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you,saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’
– Jesus (Luke 14:28-30)
In other words, if you aren’t willing to give your all, you cannot be a disciple of Christ. His harshest words regarding this difficult teaching are those given at the beginning of this post – if you do not hate your family, you cannot be Christ’s disciple. Jesus is emphasizing the extreme cost of discipleship – nothing must come before Christ, and in fact, it must be nothing BUT Christ.
Ame demonstrates this bold commitment. At one point, hearing his mother’s pleas, he hesitates, perhaps thinking of returning to his human home. But before he can change his mind, Ame runs off, probably to never be seen by his mother or sister again. He has given up those bonds, and put on a new life.
Christians, too, must be sure to value Christ above all – even at the risk of leaving behind all we hold most dear. We may never have to actually leave family, as Ame did, but our resolution cannot be any thinner – the cost of discipleship for a Christian is his or her very life. The question is, are we willing to pay it?