Arisa is the second most popular waitress at Maid Café Vamp. Yes, that’s right, second. She was first, but then was supplanted by an actual vampire, Midori, when the latter joined the establishment.
But that’s still pretty good, right? Second is nothing to scoff at. To be honest with you, if I was the second best in my occupation at work, I think I would feel satisfied. But Arisa isn’t like me. Despite not letting on about it, it’s revealed later in episode ten of Call of the Night that she feels insecure about her position, so much so that she hatches a scheme to turn things around that ultimately blows up in her face.
Having been led to Maid Café Vamp by Midori, Nazuna and Ko meet Arisa and offer to help her with a stalker problem she’s been having. An anonymous social media user is posting candid photos of the maid online. But as Ko eventually deduces, the stalker is none other than Arisa herself, using the account to create the kind of buzz that might raise her back to number one so that she can, what, get more tips? Gain more fame and influence?
No, it’s nothing so superficial. Arisa deceives her co-workers and new friends so that she can gain a measure of self-worth, a feeling she lost when the top spot slipped away from her.
When confronted with her deed, and with her head hanging down in shame and humility, Arisa says she’ll resign her position. But right at the moment of resignation, comes another voice, one that speaks with authority and surprising gentleness (for a vampire):
“Arisa-chan, it’s okay to be ill.”
Midori, who is right at the center of this situation since it’s her popularity that Arisa has reacted so strongly against, offers the other maid words of understanding and grace. “You made a bit of a mistake this time,” she says before adding, “humans are pretty much all sick in their own ways.”
The tension and embarrassment begin to melt away as Midori explains how all people are “sick,” including all the waitresses and patrons at their café, also hinting that she has the same type of self-worth issues as Arisa.
Midori doesn’t let her off the hook completely, but nevertheless, Arisa begins to feel relief in knowing that she’s not alone.
The acknowledgment that we are all suffering under the same condition can be powerful and moving. While most of us accept that we’re imperfect, to hear it said out loud confirms the condition and keeps us from the isolation we can experience when our minds relentlessly impress upon us the guilt of sin, the loneliness that it brings, and the lie that we are our sin and nothing more.
I remember times in my own life when I’ve dealt with some secret sin. While I understood both that others were working through their own sins and that we all as Christians are forgiven through grace, I still believed the lie that “You’re really messed up, more than any reasonable person should be.” And then there were times, too, when I felt relief and freedom as each member of an accountability group admitted that we were dealing with profound sins and issues in our lives, if not exactly the same ones.
There’s something godly about the open sharing of our imperfections. If we think about it, Midori’s approach here is reminiscent of Christ’s response every time he encountered sinners, maybe most famously with the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11).
Throughout his ministry, religious leaders tried to play “gotcha” with Jesus. The Pharisees, furious that this “upstart” would say that they—the experts specially appointed by God to lead the people in religious life—were neither in compliance with the letter nor the heart of the law that they followed so systematically, sought to discredit Jesus by attempting to show that his teachings were not in accordance with scripture. In this specific situation, a woman caught in adultery is dragged to where Jesus is teaching, thrown down before him, and surrounded by a crowd ready to stone her to death, as was the penalty called for by the law. Would Jesus, a champion of women and the downtrodden, approve of the execution, or would he deny scripture?
Jesus does neither. In fact, at first he just hunches down and draws in the dirt. Can you imagine? A public execution, in which the community members themselves are the executioners, is about to occur, and Jesus just traces the sand as if there’s no pressure on him and the woman at all. After a time, he replies to the crowd: You can stone her, but only one who is perfect can carry out the judgment.
One by one, the surrounding crowd—the older (and perhaps wiser) and then then the younger—walk away, apparently convicted of their own imperfections, leaving the woman unharmed. Jesus, who had bent down on the ground to draw in the dirt again, then asks the woman where her accusers have gone and if any remain to condemn her. She responds that no one is left, and Jesus tells her that he won’t condemn her either (though as the only perfect one, he has the right to), and instead tells her she should leave her life of sin.
Like Arisa, this woman has been publicly exposed, unable to hide her deeds. But rather than turn away in disgust, both Midori and Jesus approach with compassion. In her moment of exposure, Arisa must have felt so alone. I imagine that for the adulterous woman, she must also have felt abandoned, without a single ally—until she was brought before Jesus.
Arisa, too, found an unexpected ally in Midori. She no doubt expected to be met with anger and derision from her friends and colleagues, but instead receives understanding.
But while the episode models this life-giving shift in focus really well, it’s still missing something. Midori can only go so far, for as she extends her metaphor of illness to all humanity (and to vampires, too), she includes herself. And both by that self-admission and a lack of any hope beyond the advice to just “accept that you’re sick,” Midori indicates that she does not know the cure.
But for us, there is a hope. There is a remedy to the disease that infects all humankind, and it is in the person of Christ. Remember what Jesus tells the woman: he will not condemn her. She is forgiven of her sin. This is the cure that God offers us as well: a forgiveness not based on what we do—which deserves punishment—but based on who God is—One who demonstrates love to a people who don’t deserve it. This is the gospel, that the perfect God of heaven gifts us a sure and certain hope that we cannot attain for ourselves. This is the “good news”—without it, we are hopeless.
Jesus also follows up by instructing the woman to stop living in her sin. A life impacted by the hope of Christ leads to transformation in which our lives exhibit more and more the fruits of the Spirit as we leave sin behind and grow in faith.
And this is a great promise of the Christian life. Like Arisa, when our thoughts and deeds are exposed to the light, our shameful condition is revealed. But also like Arisa, we are loved by one who has the right to turn away, yet instead reminds us that we’re not alone, and that we are not the only ones suffering from this disease. In fact, we are like everyone else, and it is Christ himself that gives us hope by standing by us, saving us, and pointing us toward a better life.
Humans are pretty much all sick in their own ways, you know? This is true. But thank God that we have the hope of salvation and transformation in Christ, who has come to be our physician, to treat and cure us so that in him, we are sick no more.
Call of the Night is available for streaming on HiDIVE.
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