The new season of anime has brought another idol anime (think less heathen idols and more American Idol): specifically, another anime based on the iDOLM@STER franchise of idol-based video games. Cinderella Girls focuses on a new group of 14 girls, in particular focusing on the three newest members of the “Cinderella Project” group at 346 Productions: Uzuki, Rin, and Mio. Shortly after they are brought on board the project, they are put on the fast track to stardom as they are assigned roles as backup dancers for an established idol, and soon after that (in the most recent episode 5) are chosen to have their CD debut (along with two other members, Minami and Anastasia). This is all very exciting for these three, but not everyone is entirely happy with their success.
Miku is probably the most vocally displeased with how these three girls have gotten to have their idol debut already, when she has been with the project longer than they have. She challenges the girls to various games to try to take their place, tries to persuade the producer with her own debut proposal, and when all else fails, she “goes on strike” to make her case (and by “goes on strike”, she means blockading the company’s cafeteria). Her actions may be comical, but her frustration is very understandable: not only has she been practicing for a long time with no sign of her debut coming, but now she sees these three girls enter the project after her and get their debut before her–of course that would be disheartening.
Christians might also encounter a situation like what Miku goes through. They pray to God and seek after Him for something, whether that be a spouse, a promotion, or a special ministry opportunity, but God seems to remain silent about their request. This is discouraging enough as it is, but it only gets worse when they see their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, especially those who have been in the faith shorter than they have, get married, promoted, or enter ministry before they do. They know they should be happy for them, but instead they start to feel resentful toward their fellow Christians or toward God. Their faith starts to waver as they wonder, “When will my time come?”
One of Jesus’s parables touches on the seeming unfairness that Christians can encounter. The Parable of the Vineyard Workers is probably one of the hardest parables to understand and accept. The parable describes the kingdom of God as a vineyard, whose master goes out early in the morning to hire some workers and pay them a typical day’s wage for their work. They agree and start working, and then throughout the day, the master goes out and hires more workers, right up until an hour before he closes. At the end of the day, he starts paying the various workers their wages, starting with those who started working later… and to the consternation of those who started working at the beginning of the day, he pays everyone a full day’s wage, even those who only worked one hour. When they complain, though, the master chastises them for being ungrateful and for complaining about getting exactly what they signed up for; after all, the master has every right to do what he wants to do with his money.
There’s a lot to unpack from this parable, but there’s an overall theme here that, when it comes to following God, there is a danger in comparing ourselves to our fellow Christians. Certainly, by getting a full day’s wage, the workers who started later were getting more than they deserve, but God’s grace is far greater than any of us deserve, so we really have no right to complain there. In particular, we should not begrudge those who have not been Christians as long as we have if they seem to be blessed by God before we have. Nor should we be worried about whether we are working hard enough or not. God does not hand out His blessings by whoever’s been working longer or harder as a Christian; that would be a works-based distribution of blessings, and “works-based” goes against the very definition of God’s grace.
Jesus brings up this matter again after His resurrection, in a conversation with Simon Peter, who is to be the “rock” on which the Church will be built. Peter, after being asked to follow Jesus and told that he will end up martyred for his faith, sees “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (a.k.a. John), and asks about him. Jesus’s response is very simple:
“If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:22, ESV)
Jesus’s point is easy to figure out here: our own walk of faith should not be determined by what others’ walks of faith are. The most important thing is not how others are following Christ; it is how we ourselves are following Christ. God does have good plans for our lives, and they will come in due time; in the meantime, being faithful in the here and now is our main priority.
Sometimes, it is just a matter of being aware of a bigger picture that we cannot see all of. The producer eventually tells Miku and the other girls that he is planning on giving all the girls their debut, with Uzuki’s group and the Minami/Anastasia duo being the first wave, and the other girls following in later waves. However, as this plan was not official yet, he could not speak too openly about it. Nevertheless, the news does give Miku and the others some hope to go on in the moment, allowing them to focus on what is most important for them at that moment: continue practicing to be an idol.
Likewise, God is working on something bigger that we cannot fully see, and He knows when is the best timing for giving us certain blessings of His. If we can trust His timing and just follow Him in the meantime, we will someday receive those blessings that will be best suited for what God wants for our lives–even if they might not be the blessings we originally wanted. Rest assured, though, that those blessings are worth waiting for.
(Edit: Just want to add this in to avoid confusion: I am not likening the producer to God in this comparison. The producer is very much human and his way of handling the situation might not have been the best way to go about it. The focus here is simply on Miku and the other girls’ situation and the bigger picture that they are unaware of.)
If you are feeling discouraged because you have been waiting on God and He seems to be silent, I hope you can take encouragement from this show and this post to keep having faith in Him. Treasure your relationship with God, because that really is the greatest blessing we could have. Whether we started working in the vineyard early in the day or close to closing, God has offered His Son on the cross to have a relationship with us, and that is a payment far greater than what any of us deserve. At the same time, keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking–the door that opens might not be the door you are knocking on, but a door will open eventually. And if you see brothers or sisters in Christ who are newer to the faith go ahead of you, you can encourage them as they explore exciting new paths of life, but there is no reason to look at them for too long; they have their walk of faith, and you have our own.
If you want to watch The iDOLM@STER Cinderella Girls, it is streaming for free on Daisuki.