Despite its enduring popularity, somehow I never got around to starting DanMachi in a proper way, from episode one. I’m beginning to regret that, as I’ve caught chunks of the series this season while others around me watch, and have even sat through most of a couple of the recent episodes. For those unaware, the third season has focused on a really interesting storyline with Bell, the hero of the tale, and his familia helping the Xenos, intelligent members of humanity’s sworn monster enemy. As Bell and the Hestia Familia get to know the Xenos better and try to build that bridge, others try to destroy the monsters, and humanity at large continues to see them as being as vile any other member of their kind. As outright and violent war erupts, Bell finds himself as perhaps more hated than the monsters themselves for “siding” with them. Under immense pressure, and seeing friends attack one another (and as many kind monsters die), what good could come of this?
My recent scripture reading reminds me of how our plans often go astray. The Book of Philemon is a short letter from Paul to the letter’s namesake, requesting that he take back a fugitive slave, Onesimus, with the grace befitting that he should show a brother in Christ. Paul is sending him back with this explanation: “Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me” (11).
The detours we take, and even the paths we “choose” ourselves, often end up quite different than how we anticipate they would go. Philemon must be very angry at his slave running away, and I imagine, wants to punish him. Onesimus, on the other hand, must have wanted complete freedom and fear returning to the household from whence he came. And yet, Paul is asking that neither side get what they originally desired. Onesimus is apparently grown in his faith and intends to serve Philemon again and this time, with Christian character; Philemon, on the other hand, is expected to receive him with love, not rage. An unusual case, then, leads to God’s glory as a very human conflict becomes centered on God.
The gods of DanMachi are as different as can be from the Christian God! But the principle can be extended to Bell’s story. He wants peace, but is thrown into terrible conflict, personally and on a larger scale. And though I don’t know how the story ends, I can hazard a guess that end result will be “good,” if unexpected. Things don’t seem that way now for Bell and the Hestia Familia, but hope endures (much like in Christianity, uplifted and symbolized by a resurrection). A light shines as they seek to do what is right.
I think that lesson is important especially today, when our communities and world—and perhaps and probably our own personal lives—drift back and forth from a quiet seething below a calm surface to being in utter turmoil. But God continues to work, and in unexpected ways (unexpected not only because we can’t see the end result, but because as with Onesimus and Philemon, and with Bell, they don’t align with the “perfect” plans we imagine). Even in the midst of great evils, like warfare and slavery; even when the world seems to be falling apart, as unrest turns into violence and a pandemic rages; even when our personal views are so set in stone that we can’t create the peace we want or get the resolution we seek, God is still working. We can find security in that. In fact, that hope has to be our anchor sometimes, lest we get blown away by the stress and pain of this life.
And indeed, life can be painful. 2020 is (almost was!) painful. But there is peace. There is joy. There is hope—and it’s only found in the author of a story bigger than we can fully see or tell ourselves. Let the perfect author, the very author of our salvation, be the anchor in these waves, and see if you’re not saved—even if it’s to a path, life, or situation that you had never intended.
DanMachi can be streamed through Crunchyroll.