TWWK filling in for Japes today, who has been working hard at our podcast (tune in tomorrow!) and special themed posts for Holy Week next week! I’m glad to have the opportunity to write this article, as I’ve just finished catching up with Death Parade and have a lot on my mind, particularly in regards to the most recent episode, Memento Mori.
Chiyuki’s life, as illustrated in episode 11, tells us a lot about hope and it’s opposite, hopelessness. Her back story is surprising – both for how happy it begins and for how quickly it deteriorates. Chiyuki is a happy girl with a warm family, surrounded by loved ones and supported by a strong foundation of love. So when her skyrocketing career is derailed by knee problems (Chiyuki = Sada meets Kerrigan?), I assumed that she would somehow bounce back – this couldn’t possibly be leading to suicide, could it? Chiyuki is too well-grounded and happy for that!
Of course, it does turn down that path, frightfully and quickly. And not, as Chiyuki assures, because of her drive for figure skating. It’s because she feels an extreme loneliness, a disconnect from everyone else, and in that, a loss of hope. When there’s literally no hope in a person’s life, there’s no reason to live.
But it shouldn’t have been that way – not for Chiyuki. Her parents are both supportive and loving. And it’s love that provides hope. In all the struggles we go through and all the hurt we endure – some far more than others – love shows us that in the midst of it all, there’s something to which we can cling. But when signs of that love are dim, either because we’re met by so much unlove in our lives or because we’re blind to it because of the heavy fog of difficulties in our lives, we lose that hope.
Then again, some of us are more like Chiyuki, who wasn’t battered by months and years of pain. She, instead, had turned her life over to an idol that could offer her no love without even realizing it. She abandoned the love of her youth for something else, whether it be achievement, adoration, or some other pursuit. And when her mom tried to meet her with the love she had always shown, Chiyuki had become so closed off that she couldn’t accept mom’s grace, breaking down in tears instead. Like the rinks she skated at, Chiyuki’s heart had iced over, and she had become unwilling to accept warmth that might melt it and heal her.
The longer I live, the more I believe that all Christians – all of us – are seduced by worldly things without even noticing it. We may place our hopes and desires in things that we know to be bad for us – finances, worldly success, relationships, but even if we’ve faithfully moved past that surface level, we’re caught up in subtler things like culture, media, comfort, the American dream, and again, relationships. And before we know it, our trust is misplaced – we think it’s in God, when in reality, our heart is far from Him.
But another thing I believe is this – God wants all of us to know His love, His hope, and His salvation (2 Peter 3:9). And if it means taking us through the fire to burn away our trust in the perishable things of this world – and in my experience, is almost always does – he’ll do that, just to show us what real love means and where our hope should be.
We’re all Chiyuki. We all have setbacks. But like her mom, we’re offered the same message from God:
You know, I loved watching you skate, Chiyuki, but what made me happiest was seeing you grow up as fine as you have.
Chiyuki’s mom tells us this truth – we’re loved for who we are, not what we do – just simply for being. Like a proud parent, God loves us no matter our failures or successes. But it’s up to us to accept that truth, and we can’t accept it until we realize the depths of our sin and the judgement we deserve, and the loves that awaits us even then.
Ultimately, we have accept the truth that Chiyuki was unable to, that to the contrary of her beliefs about all of us being strangers to one another, God does know us, and that he loves us in spite of our darkness. I think the young Chiyuki, living in love, would have been able to accept as much. But the older Chiyuki, having lived for something else, cannot.
If God brought you through the fire to lead you to surrender everything, if it meant stripping away that which was most important to you, would you be able to respond to his love? Or would you lose hope?
If you honestly answered “yes” to the latter question – then it might be time to reevaluate and ask this, as well: What hidden idol must I surrender to God? And this question is all-important, because as we know, we can only serve God or the world. And if we’re serving something other than God, we’re on a destructive path, and as Death Parade never fails to let us know, our final judgement is a matter of life and death.