Last week, I fell into a rage during a stressful moment at home. I railed on and on, and screamed a number of things I’ve since regretted. That tirade later led me to reflect on Paul’s admission, “I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15b). It’s almost like I have a dual nature, tearing me in two.
With that struggle in mind, it’s been very fitting that I recently completed the Orleans Quest in Fate/Grand Order, in which Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc), summoned as a heroic spirit, seeks to stop her evil alter ego, Jeanne Alter, from conquering France by use of other heroic spirits and wyverns.
Jeanne is confused by her own summoning, but even more so by the very existence of her altered version. How could she have turned out in such a way?
Jeanne has difficulty understanding the situation because she’s such a loving young woman, especially toward her countrymen, whom Alter Jeanne intends to destroy. In fact, she is presented as too clean, too innocent. It’s easy to admire Jeanne, but hard to related to her.
I’m quite different from Jeanne. As Robert Robinson famously opined, “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” While the hymist was probably referring to a permanent abdication of faith (here’s a short, fascinating article about my favorite hymn), I “wander” day by day, hour by hour. I know my “Alter” self too well. I don’t need to ponder about who that is – I’m intimate with Alter TWWK.
It’s troublesome to me that I can see the outstanding qualities God has grown within me, but to still witness how quickly and easily I return to a state of sin, vengeance, and rage. I hate to admit it, but I very closely resemble Jeanne Alter sometimes. I become upset and frustrated at others, and in the worst of moments and worst of times, at God. I blame the giver of all good things for presenting me with situations I see as bad, but like the rage-blind Jeanne Alter, I’m speaking from a position of one who is limited and can’t see the big picture; I’m only concerned with the pain of here and now.
And that’s disappointing, to know how far I’ve come, but still how far I have to go. I know that I will always deal with sin, but I forget sometimes that even with the Spirit within me, even with a new heart, I’m still just a human.
Mash, after the quest is completed, makes an interesting observation about just that. She alludes to the idea that humans are so prone to making poor decisions based on emotion. Some, without restraint, can “destroy the world,” like Jeanne Alter or in a more modern sense, dictators and fascists. And then there are those of us who struggle to live righteously, but still destroy worlds, those of our friends, our employees, our children.
Ultimately, and slight spoilers ahead, Jeanne is able to defeat Jeanne Alter, as well as the mastermind behind the disruptions in Orleans. We, too, are in a battle – a battle against the corruption of this world, a battle against spiritual forces, a battle against our own selves. It can be discouraging and painful. We might feel like we’ve failed – and sometimes we do. But a battle is only part a war, and like the war in which the Siege of Orleans took place, this is a long one. Our alternate selves will appear, sometimes dramatically as with me last week, and more often subtly in the day to day, but our ally is the same as Jeanne’s – and with that ally, not only do we have ultimate victory sealed, but just as significantly for people like me that sometimes can’t see further than our faces, we are rescued even in the moments when we’re not stronger than the alter within.