Breaking Free of ‘Flesh-absorption’

By Victoria Vargas, GUG Contributor

This article was edited to Geeks Under Grace standards, and the personal opinions of this author are not necessarily that of Geeks Under Grace.

An Attack on Titan figure

In the realm of storytelling, profound allegories often emerge from the strangest sources. Anime, a medium renowned for its diverse narratives, occasionally offers insights that resonate deeply with spiritual themes. The first season of Attack on Titan, a series known for its gripping storyline and complex characters, can present intriguing parallels to the biblical struggle against the desires of the flesh. Episodes 12 and 13, in particular, encapsulate this struggle vividly, mirroring the challenges faced by humanity in its endeavor to overcome the enticements of the flesh.

Melded to the Flesh: A Reflection of Our Nature

Eren Yeager’s first transformation into a Titan is a striking visual representation of the human experience. As he metamorphoses, flesh grows over him, and he becomes intertwined with it, much like our own initial state of existence. Just as Eren starts out melded with the flesh of the Titan, humanity begins its journey in a world dominated by the desires and urges of the flesh, often at the expense of others. These desires, while varying in intensity from person to person, blind us to higher truths and obstruct our path to spiritual growth.

Take the scene where Eren attacks Mikasa, one of his closest companions. When confronted with the possibility of receiving love and help, Eren reacts defensively, perceiving these gestures as attacks. This mirrors the human tendency to reject divine love and guidance, often due to a sense of unworthiness or a subconscious belief that our desires and pursuits are more important than the spiritual aspects of life. Just as Eren attacked himself while attempting to fend off Mikasa’s help, we, too, inadvertently harm ourselves when we resist the transformative power of love and grace.

The Titans Within: Confronting Self-Absorption

The Titans that threaten humanity in Attack on Titan can be seen as allegorical representations of self-absorption. These towering beings are consumed by their own desires, much like individuals who prioritize their own gratification above all else. The portrayal of Titans as entirely consumed by their own flesh aligns with the biblical notion that an excessive focus on worldly desires can obscure our understanding of important truths.

The parallel between the Titans and self-absorbed individuals also illuminates the concept of reaping what one sows. In the spiritual context, sowing to the flesh, or succumbing to base desires, leads to destruction. The Titans, in their relentless pursuit of their own cravings, bring ruin and devastation to the world. This serves as a poignant reminder that our selfish pursuits have far-reaching consequences, not only affecting our own lives but also impacting those around us.

A man with both fists in the air

Transformation and Redemption: The Promise of Liberation

Yet, amid the bleakness and despair, there is a glimmer of hope. Just as Eren had the potential to transform back into a human, we, too, can be cut free from the fascia binding us to our fleshly desires. No matter how deeply one is entrenched in their self-absorption, the power of God can bring about a transformative change.

After Mikasa failed to rouse Eren, Armin Arlert stepped in. His role in waking Eren from his state of weariness and comfort is akin to that of a spiritual mentor, invoking the imagery of the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. The sword is depicted metaphorically as Armin’s words and actions pierce Eren’s façade of contentment. This mirrors the way in which the Word of God can pierce through the illusions we construct, revealing the truth that lies beneath the surface.

The biblical wisdom “sow in tears, reap in joy” takes on renewed significance in light of these reflections. The apostle Paul’s assertion that if our hope is solely grounded in this present life, we are to be pitied, echoes the sentiment that crucifying the desires of the flesh is a formidable challenge. Likewise, Jesus’ statement that only one who denies one’s self can follow Him underlines the necessity of transcending our worldly inclinations in pursuit of a higher calling.

In a world where pleasure and pain often dictate our actions, true freedom can be elusive. The association of pleasure with comfort and pain with suffering can lead to a cycle of manipulation, like how animals are conditioned through rewards and punishments. This cycle holds parallels to the spiritual realm, where the pursuit of immediate gratification can blind us to the higher callings and truths God beckons us toward. Just as Eren was manipulated by his desires and illusions, we, too, will be led astray if we allow our decisions to be solely guided by the fleeting allure of pleasure or the avoidance of pain, instead of by the unchanging Truth the Bible points to.

The Selfish Goal: A Catalyst for Action

Armin’s strategy to awaken Eren involved a jarring act – driving a sword into his flesh. From that point onward, whenever Eren needed to transform again, he had to bite his own hand and draw blood to do so. This self-inflicted wound serves as a metaphor for the transformative power of conviction and the disruptive force required to shatter the illusions that hold us captive. It echoes the concept that sometimes, a radical and even painful intervention is necessary to break free from the bonds of complacency.

This tactic, while initially driven by self-preservation, is reminiscent of the self-centered motivations that can sometimes fuel our initial pursuit of spiritual growth. Our desire for personal gain and deliverance can spur us to action, but if not eventually anchored in a deeper purpose, it may ultimately profit us nothing. The biblical teachings remind us that even if we possess remarkable spiritual gifts or insights, without the guiding force of love, our efforts are rendered hollow.

Led by the Spirit: Nurturing the Fruit of Transformation

However, a crucial shift occurs when we shift our focus from selfish motivations to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The biblical notion of being led solely by the Spirit finds resonance in Eren’s journey. Just as Eren’s attempts at conscious transformation weren’t always perfect at the beginning, the growth of spiritual fruit – as outlined in the book of Galatians – takes time to cultivate. The fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are formed as we yield to the Spirit’s guidance and remain steadfast in our pursuit of righteousness.

The Apostle Paul’s exhortation to “not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap if we do not give up” aligns with this narrative. The arduous process of transformation, much like Eren’s struggle, can be fraught with challenges. However, the promise of reaping a harvest – the spiritual growth resulting from our steadfastness – underscores the significance of persistence and determination in our faith journey.

A boulder in the desert

Removing Obstacles: The Call to Holiness

The apostle Paul’s exhortation to remove obstacles that lead us into sin finds another vivid parallel in the narrative of Attack on Titan’s first season. Eren’s empowerment and victory in using a boulder to seal an open gateway for the enemy Titans serve as an allegory for the principle of preventing sin by closing the doors that invite it in.

Paul’s instruction speaks to the crucial concept of holiness and spiritual purity. These obstacles can be compared to openings that allow negative influences to infiltrate our lives, much like the breach in the wall of humanity’s stronghold that allowed Titans to invade. Just as the Titans were relentless in their pursuit of destruction, so too can sin wreak havoc in our lives when we fail to address the openings through which it enters. And what’s the root of all sin? Pride. 

Empowerment and Wisdom: Sealing the Doors

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.James 4:10

I humbled my soul with fasting.Psalm 35:13

Eren’s boulder-wielding moment illustrates an essential principle: empowerment is recognizing our agency and taking action. Just as Eren harnessed his strength to close the vulnerable gateway, we, too, have the capacity to exercise control over the influences we allow into our lives, and fasting is one of the quickest, most powerful ways to take action and see results, biblically speaking. This resonates with Paul’s teachings on self-control and empowerment through the Holy Spirit, who equips us to make choices that align with righteousness, and Jesus’ statement in Luke 9:23, that whoever wants to be His disciple must deny themself and take up their cross daily.

Furthermore, closing the door on sin aligns with the biblical promise that God provides a way of escape when we are tempted. Sealing the door prevents the enemy from gaining a foothold and reinforces the notion that our decisions play a pivotal role in our spiritual journey. By acting wisely and decisively, we demonstrate our commitment to holiness and set ourselves on a path of victory.

A silhouette of a woman by the ocean with her hands raised

Prevention vs. Confrontation: A Strategy for Spiritual Victory

The wisdom of closing doors to sin embodies a strategic approach to spiritual victory. Just as Eren’s act of sealing the breach prevented the Titans from streaming in, taking proactive steps to eliminate opportunities for sin can be more effective than engaging in a constant struggle against its onslaught. 

As a personal example, my biggest battle as a new believer was with lust. I would have nightmares of people propositioning me and would wake up frustrated and drained in the mornings. I didn’t understand why my dream self kept falling for it, considering I had repented and stopped consuming explicit content for months by installing website blockers, until I spoke with my mentor and realized lust isn’t just a sexual issue, but includes one’s appetite for other kinds of pleasure as well. 

In this case, I decided to say “no” to my flesh by fasting for breakfast, no longer consuming indulgent snacks, eating only the serving size, and not adding any salt to my meals for the rest of the year. The very next day after instating this decision, the nightmares stopped, and after a few weeks, I found my self-control and patience increasing as a result. I’ve realized abstaining altogether is often easier for me than eating in moderation, and God rewards “Daniel fasting” just as he rewards water-only fasting. (I know for certain this wasn’t a one-off coincidence, because if I ever try to find a loophole around my commitment, that very night the bad dreams come back).

From my experience, whatever earthly delight you love the most, whether it be coffee or chocolate, that is the thing you should fast from first for periods of time where you want to progress spiritually and receive prophetic dreams instead of problematic ones. Of course, I encourage all readers to familiarize themselves with the numerous biblical examples of fasting and the dangers the lure of food can bring as well!

Conclusion

Just as Eren’s transformation mirrors our initial melding with the flesh and his defensive reaction to love echoes our resistance to divine guidance, the Titans symbolize the dangers of self-absorption and the consequences of yielding to fleshly desires. Yet, the potential for transformation and redemption highlights the enduring promise of liberation through spiritual growth and the grace of God, as we find new ways to subdue sin and work in harmony with our bodies. As we journey through life’s challenges, may these reflections inspire us to embrace the good works God prepared in advance for us to do and transcend the limitations of the flesh.

About the Author

Victoria Vargas is a Pentecostal animal lover who volunteers in prison ministry and is seeking a Bachelor’s in Christian counseling. In her free time, she loves animating and gaming and previously enjoyed fanfiction and roleplaying.

This article was edited to Geeks Under Grace standards, and the personal opinions of this author are not necessarily that of Geeks Under Grace.

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