Friday, November 4, 2022

Our Digi-Weaknesses Can Become Digi-Strengths

Some Spoilers ahead for a 23-year-old show…

Lately I’ve been rewatching Digimon Adventure with my daughter. It has interesting enough music and action that she can stay interested in what’s going on. I wasn’t that much older when I saw these shows: the last Digimon I watched was Digimon Frontier on Disney XD. Before then, I watched Adventure with my brother around 2000. Streaming has given me access to them again, and they keep drawing me in. Being older, I think I have the chance to think on the shows more deeply. In Digimon’s essence is the spirit of love and brotherhood, of sacrifice and courage, of hope and faith, trust, family, loyalty, charity, and so much more. These things speak to my soul. Even themes around belief, religion, and Christianity spring up. Digimon may, on the surface level, be about immature children and fighting monsters, but that’s not the heart or the purpose of it. The themes of Digimon resonate very deeply along with my faith in Christ and in His gospel, and explore so much about our potential and growth as people.

Digimon, for those who have only heard the opening theme, follows seven children (about age eleven) who are enjoying their summer camp when mysterious Digivices fall from the sky, which they pick up, suddenly pulling them in to an entirely different world. They are chosen as the DigiDestined, tasked with rescuing the Digital World from destruction and evil. At the start, it’s merely a tale of survival and returning home: but being given faithful Digimon companions, and learning that the way to go home is to save the Digital World, they take on their DigiDestined roles. After defeating the first evil, they learn that in order to Digivolve their Digimon to be even stronger, they need to find crests. The journey of finding and activating the powers of the crests illustrates lessons for our own lives.

Around the middle of the season (there are 54 episodes in Digimon Adventure alone), Sora, one of the seven DigiDestined, is kidnapped along with her Digimon Biyomon. In order to rescue  her, they have to traverse a pyramid and walk through a hidden entryway of a lethal electric fence. Up to this point, the team had thought that whatever happens in the Digital World doesn’t fully effect the real world, and so Tai felt extremely gung-ho about jumping through the invisible hole in the fence. Just before this, however, Izzy, the tech-specialist of the team, warns Tai that anything in the Digital World, even death, has a permanent and real effect on the real world, including their real bodies. Faced with the possibility of death in order to save Sora, Tai completely freezes. The bad guy, Etemon, catches up to them, and they have to run without saving Sora. After regrouping, Tai breaks down in front of the others, crying:

“I couldn’t, I couldn’t move, it was all my fault, Sora, it was all my fault!”

The team consoles him, and they later manage to sneak back in. Tai faces the deadly electric fence again. He tells Izzy:

“If I don’t do this on my own, I may not ever be able to. A man must face himself before he can face his enemies.”

Tai then jumps through, breaks Sora free, and they all face Etemon together. At first Etemon is too strong for all the children and their Digimon combined, but this only emboldens Tai. Taking courage in this trial and drawing upon his earlier act of courage to save Sora, the power in Tai’s crest of courage activates, giving Greymon strength to digivolve to MetalGreymon. With this strength, they are able to defeat Etemon, but Tai and MetalGreymon are then sucked into a portal into another world, leaving the team behind. Things take a bit of a turn here.

With Tai and Agumon gone, the team split up to try to find them. Joe and Gomamon find themselves at a diner and gorge themselves. Being a good kid, he works to pay off the meal, but the evil hench-”mon”, DemiDevimon, bribes the owner and then sabotages Joe by making him break dishes, or ruining meals. Matt and Gabumon find them, and try to help pay off the debt. This goes on for the course of several weeks. Slowly, the sabotage, lack of communication and anxiety, wears down and strains their friendship. All Matt sees is Joe trapping them for longer, and that’s enough for Matt to yell at Joe, and plan to leave. Fortunately, T.K. (Matt’s young brother) and Tokomon, show up, only to be captured by DemiDevimon and the owner. Gabumon digivolves into Garurumon, but that still isn’t strong enough. Joe sacrifices himself to save T.K., which makes Matt realize how bad of a friend he was, and his tears activate his crest, the crest of friendship. WereGarurumon is able to quickly dispatch the diner and DemiDevimon, and they become free. Matt is embarrassed, but apologizes to Joe. Is it childish? Perhaps, but these two very different and separate instances illustrate some vital lessons.

First, we are all human, and weak. Even when we are well intentioned, lack of understanding, lack of communication, and even our own strong emotions can get in the way of success. I think even us adults need to learn this lesson. I don’t always choose to forgive and be understanding.

Second, even the bravest of us can freeze and lose heart. We live in a day and an age where it’s been prophesied that the hearts of men will fail them. If you read my recent Halo post, you’ll know I can easily find myself paralyzed with fear. I really related to Tai’s inability to act when the moment was perilous. Fear is crippling, even when it isn’t rational. 

Third, how did these children find themselves chosen as the DigiDestined?  I think Paul the Apostle had something to say here:

“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are…” (1 Corinthians 1:27-28)

As I said, there are many parallels to the gospel. These kids were chosen. They face enemies that represent the devil, and some of their Digivolutions represent angels of light. Yet it wasn’t the biggest and bravest Digimon that were sent, nor older, more mature, and wiser adults, but it was children. And how did they become stronger themselves? By facing the refiner’s fire, by having to directly face their weaknesses: Tai had to face the chance of death, and Matt had to face his own pride, his unwillingness to admit he was wrong, and his anger. Sometimes our difficulties in life can be addressed that simply: we have to face our weaknesses. However, we don’t have to be alone in this journey. The team had their faithful Digimon to help them, but we have Christ. As the prophet Moroni wrote: 

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:27)

That is why I keep following shows like Digimon, because they remind me of these principles. Even in the church, we can find ourselves surrounded by those who make massive blunders that seem to cripple the ability of the church to live up to the gospel message of hope. Sometimes, we will feel to yell. Sometimes, we will freeze when we feel promptings of the spirit. Instead of giving up, we can hold on to those principles of hope, faith, trust, and charity, and follow our Savior through the difficulties of life. I hope that we all can come to Christ, and humble ourselves, that through Christ we might not only become stronger, but our weaknesses themselves will become strengths.

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