After seeing it being discussed at length by two of the Beneath the Tangles writers, I decided to take a chance and head outside of my anime comfort zone and try Haikyuu. I’m currently nine episodes into it and I’m finding myself enjoying it. That said, I want to talk first about Hinata and the first episode of Haikyuu. But first, let’s talk about the plot.
Haikyuu is an ongoing anime series about…high school volleyball. Kind of. It’s about the team, the individual players, with a focus at the start on Shōyō Hinata. He’s a short guy in middle school at the start of the series who loves volleyball. He wants there to be a team desperately and, by the end of his middle school career – he makes it happen. They have a team. They can enter one tournament. The team is pretty much just him and a bunch of his friends who he convinced to play with him. He is skilled and has been practicing intently for years, finally getting a chance to play. The rest of his team…is not very good. In fact, I would go as far as to say they are pretty terrible at volleyball.
With that in mind, Hinata is up against a fairly strong team. They were one of the best middle school teams in the prefecture. Meaning? They were going to get destroyed in this game. And, they did. Did Hinata give up? Nope. Did he get angry at his teammates as they continue to disappoint? No. Instead, we see Hinata continuously encouraging his teammates. When they fail, he tells them it’s okay. When they do well, he raises them up. Hinata is, effectively serving as team captain, but is also serving in a role as chief encourager of the team.
Encouragement matters. In the episode, it drives these players who have minimal skill to score points. Not merely lucky points, but points earned by skill. Not many. Not nearly enough to win. But enough to make a difference.
In life, we need encouragement. We see many examples of encouragement in the Bible. One of the first that always sticks with me is the encouragement of Joshua. Joshua son of Nun becomes the leader of the Israelites right after Moses. He is the one who will lead them into the Promised Land. Big shoes to fill and armies of enemies lie before them. What does the Lord say to him over and over again? Be strong and courageous (Deuteronomy 31:6, Joshua 1:6-7, Joshua 1:9, Joshua 1:18). The Lord encourages Joshua to lead the people. And, frankly, it is a mighty task Joshua has before him. The land the Israelites were to reclaim for the Lord was filled with many people who were ready to slaughter them. They could never return to Egypt. Failure was not an option for Joshua. So, he did not fail – with the Lord’s support, protection, guidance, and encouragement Joshua prevailed. Over and over again.
Later, in the New Testament we see Paul serving in an important role as encourager. In his many letters to the churches, he encourages them to stay strong in the faith (Examples: Ephesians 6:11). He encourages and thanks them for the good things they are currently doing for the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:4-9, 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10, Philippians 1:3-11). In his letters to Timothy, he calls to his friend telling him to not be ashamed of his youth and to embrace the amazing gifts the Lord provided to him (1 Timothy 4:11-16). Paul was a great encourager of the early church. Yes, he called them out when they failed – but he also worked hard to raise them up reminding them of their focal point: Christ.
As leader of his squad, Hinata needed to continue to encourage his teammates. He tried to raise them up and continually reminded them of their goal: score points, try to win the game. In that regard he did something else to help keep them motivated. He gave every ounce of his being to fight, scrape, and earn every point he could.
Paul also modeled this form of encouragement, describing in detail the abuse he received for the Gospel. Not to brag, I mean really – who brags about being beaten, but to show that he was alongside them. Paul was there with each and every one of them through the persecution, the attacks, the violence. He was their ally and he was their friend. But the greatest example of an encourager who has been through it all like us is in Christ. In Hebrews 4:14-16, the author reminds us of something important – Christ is a great High Priest who understands our plight. He was perfect, but He lived as a man. He hurt. He suffered. He was mocked. He was persecuted. He was beaten. He died. Through it all, though, He did not sin. He gives us hope because He was there where we were. He serves as the example, the perfect example.
While Hinata is far from perfect, as you learn throughout the series, he encourages and serves as an example to his team. He leads by example, he gives his all even as it is punishing to his body. He’s willing. Are we?
Cross-posted to MDMRN.com