Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Yama no Susume Second Season, Eps. 1-4: Mountain of Faith

Unfortunately, Crunchyroll has yet to put up anything past episode 1 still for the second season of this show, despite it already approaching its second cour. I can only hope that the holdup last no longer than the start of the Fall season, because this show has been amazing so far, right up there with its YamaHanaBara counterparts Hanayamata and Barakamon. At any rate, with what looks to be a wonderful second half coming up, I want to at least put up something for the first four episodes of the show (equivalent to two full-length episodes).

For those still waiting for official streams for this show, be warned that this post contains decent spoilers.

Don't worry, this isn't a spoiler; it's from the first minute of the show.

Where Are We Going?

Noticing that Aoi is looking wistfully at Mt. Fuji, Hinata decides to surprise her by taking her on a hike where they can get a good look at Japan's tallest mountain. She and their other mountain friends, Kaede and Kokona, decide on Mt. Mitsutoge. At 1,785 meters, it is almost three times as tall as Mt. Takao, their last climb, though the difficulty of the hike is still at a beginner's level as there's a clear trail to the top.

On Aoi's part, she has no idea what to expect when Hinata tells her to meet up with everyone for a climb. On the way there, she keeps asking where they are going, and everyone just says it's a secret. Even when she arrives at Mt. Mitsutoge, she wonders why they are climbing such a seemingly obscure mountain. Getting somewhat annoyed at everyone's secrecy, Aoi can only keep going in the faith that Hinata has a reason for taking her here, until a glimpse of Mt. Fuji gives her an idea of that reason.

For Christians, God will oftentimes call us to go someplace or do something without telling us why He wants us to do it. This can be tough for us, especially those who are still relatively new to the faith, as our human nature makes us want to have a reason for everything we do. (Just ask a teenager who is told by their parents they can't do something "because I said so".) Yet God still keeps His reasons hidden from us, because He wants us to have faith in Him and learn to trust Him above all else. Like Aoi, we can only keep going forward in the faith that God has something good waiting for us.

Of course, God did give us thinking minds, and somewhere along our faith journey, we may start to figure out the reason He is taking us along that journey. And like that glimpse of Mt. Fuji inspires Aoi to press forward, our own glimpses of God's purpose can inspire us, too. Even so, it is still just a glimpse; like how Aoi can only really appreciate Hinata's taking her to Mt. Mitsutoge when she sees the glory of the full view of Mt. Fuji near the peak, so we will only truly see the good God had planned for us as our journey draws to a close.

Endurance of Climb

Whether or not we have caught that glimpse of God's purpose for our journey of faith, one thing is certain: that journey will be a difficult one filled with trials. Aoi finds that out on her own climb when, even knowing that Mt. Fuji awaits her, the physical exhaustion of climbing a long mountain trail starts takes it's toll on her. It gets to the point where climbing the mountain stops being fun, and she starts thinking of quitting the climb altogether. Thankfully, Kaede notices and gets the group to stop so she can recover her strength.

Whatever God may ask us to do in our faith journey, we may approach it initially with joy and enthusiasm. However, as we start encountering trials and difficulties, that joy and enthusiasm will likely start to disappear, replaced by fatigue and even resentment. (Again, this can be especially true of newer Christians.) Under those conditions, how can we continue our journey while joyfully serving the Lord? Hebrews chapter 12 is an overall great chapter on what it means to endure in the faith; here, I will note verse 2:

"...looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."

Jesus didn't like being crucified, but he endured it for the joy set before him: being with his Father. It was not something that was far off for him, but was something he could have joy in right in that moment. The suffering we have to go through might not be quite on the level of a full crucifixion, but when our trials feel excruciating, we can look forward to the reward that is not only waiting on top of the mountain, but also the reward right in front of us: being able to be with God even in our suffering.

Certainly, the opportunity to get a full glimpse of Mount Fuji, and the sense of accomplishment from climbing to the top, are things that make Hinata feel the long climb is worth it. But even during the climb, the opportunity to climb with her friends is something that she values even during the climb, and allows her to continue on even in the midst of her exhaustion. As good as it is to have hope for the great things that we are promised, sometimes what we need to get through a tough trial is the joy of being with God in that moment. (This should not be mistaken for being happy or enjoying that moment, but rather a deeper satisfaction in life regardless of the circumstances.) And considering that it is an outright command to rejoice in the Lord always, even in the trials, being able to find joy just in being in God's presence is important.

Of course, enjoying the view at the top of the mountain is great, too, and after that, there's always a nice, relaxing dip in a hot spring (figuratively or literally). When it comes to the Christian walk, every moment of our journey--the trials, the destination, and the aftermath--are all meaningful moments for us, especially with God by our side.


So now that Aoi and her friends have climbed Mitsutoge, what mountain will they challenge next? Certainly, Mt. Fuji has been the subject of their attention as of late, but would they really try to climb the highest mountain in Japan? (Answer: Why not?) One thing's for sure, though: as Aoi continues to challenge her limits in mountaineering, we can continue to take inspiration in her journey.

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