Barakamon Episode 4, The First Step

While I have hardly been impressed with the summer season, one of the few shows I’ve been enjoying is Barakamon. It follows the encounters of struggling calligrapher Seishuu (though everyone calls him sensei) with the residents of a rural island. As a perfectionist, he often worries about things which the residents cannot comprehend or relate to. Yet, it is this stark difference in perspective that allows him to learn about ways of life other than his own.

Art by Yoshino Satsuki, Lineart and color by Osama
Art by Yoshino Satsuki, Lineart and color by Osama

In episode 4, sensei finds himself tasked with a demand to paint a boat’s name on its side, which as you might imagine is a bit different from that which a professional calligrapher is used to. He does not have his familiar tools and has no experience with the curved nature of the boat. First he wants to draft something and use it as a stencil, but the boat owner refuses as he wants something bold, unique, and not something so easily copied. He says there is no need for a draft and entrusts the rest to sensei. Consequently, he practices his strokes with the unfamiliar paint brush before approaching the real attempt, but then he suddenly remembers he forgot to account for the curved surface. He spends time inspecting it, contemplates more, and finds himself even more worried about starting. In response, Naru and friends, a few children who adamantly follow sensei around, start putting handprints on the boat (kids will be kids). As a result, he is forced to frantically start painting over the handprints and making large strokes to cover up the handprints. Before he knows it, he is easily accomplishing the task he was so worried about beginning. The result is something he never would’ve written without the handprints of children, and the boat owner is greatly pleased with it as well. The hardest part was taking the first step.

Of course, this is an idea which is common both in media and in motivational discussions. Starting something new can often be daunting and worrisome, but as they say, without taking the first step, there is no chance of starting something new. But spiritually, this is perhaps even more relevant. God has a habit of calling us to do things we don’t want to do, especially things we feel unqualified for. Even if we accept, it can be so difficult to take that first step. We are scared of messing up and failing to meet expectations. We don’t have the confidence to do it. Sometimes we need a push from the hands of friends (or even children), which can make for a rocky start. But when we finally do start, we will often find things fall into place easier than our fears would have us believe. It is after we finally start the job given to us that things really are working out for the better.

Like sensei, we doubt our own capabilities and don’t want to work with something we are unfamiliar with. At one point, he suggested getting a professional to do the job, but the owner insisted “I want you to do it,” explaining he wants something different. When God calls us to do something, He insists the same: “I want you.” No matter how unqualified we feel, that is not the point. The point is God wants our work, not a “professional’s” work. In fact, it is not even about being qualified. God calls the unqualified to bring glory to Himself because the success of the unqualified exemplifies the power of God. In a strangely similar manner, the boat owner wants sensei to do the work to show off how unique his boat is, and, arguably, to bring glory to himself (even if this is probably limited to his own silly opinion of himself). When God asks for our service, it is not a question of whether there is someone more qualified or whether we can do a good enough job. It is a simple matter of doing what we can because what we are able to do it is exactly what God wants.

In reality, it probably didn’t matter how “good” of a job sensei did. What was desired was not perfection but merely his personal work. So when God calls you do something, it can certainly be worrisome wondering whether you are qualified or how many mistakes you will surely make. However, remember that God does not request perfection from us; He is only requesting our best effort, and that is something we are all capable of giving, regardless of any result we may fear.


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