When it comes to talking about faith and geeky hobbies, I’m glad there are others of us out there! One such group that publishes fantastic stories, devotionals and even graphic novels, is Mythos & Ink. They kindly reached out to me to share a chapter on their upcoming collection of devotionals titled Thy Geekdom Come – Vol. 2. If you’ve never read volume 1, it’s a recommended book in my resource page so go check it out!
There’s also a blog tour going on for the release of this new volume, where myself and several other blogs are reviewing chapters from the book, so please pass by their blogs as well. That link also leads to a FREE 5 day devotional, so grab that loot as well!
Without further adieu, let’s get right into this great piece from Final Fantasy VIII!
Final Fantasy VIII and the Promise that We Are Not Alone
By Lester Liao
“I’ll be waiting for you. If you come here, you’ll find me. I promise.”
—Squall Leonhart, Final Fantasy VIII
Read: Joshua 1:1–9
Reflect: In the role-playing video game Final Fantasy VIII, Squall Leonhart is a lone wolf whose journey leads to friendship and the salvation of the world. But his upbringing is dark. He grows up in an orphanage, and even there loses the one sisterly figure close to him. Throughout the game, players see flashbacks of Squall weeping alone in the rain, resolving to make it through life on his own.
But, as his story progresses, Squall finds himself embroiled in a cosmic conflict, and he needs help. Zell, Selphie, and Quistis rescue him from an electrocution torture chamber, Irvine helps him recover his lost childhood memories, and all of Balamb Garden (the mercenary group he trained with) help him to fight against the Galbadian army. In a moment of lucidity, he realizes that self sufficiency is a fantasy.
In the midst of this chaos, Rinoa, a member of a group of freedom fighters who joins forces with Squall, becomes the primary vehicle for his redemption. As Squall struggles to understand his own reservations toward others and the fear of rejection that drives his independence, Rinoa reminds him that relying on another is not a weakness, but a strength.
Squall’s desire for independence is familiar. I want to stand out in a crowd, pursue my dreams, and free myself from the bonds of social obligation. It’s what I’ve come to value in a chaotic world. I turn to myself as God. But I am left unsatisfied, and I remember God’s way is lifegiving. Mutual dependence with others fosters the relationships that make life whole.
Squall lives in the shadow of abandonment, and he’s afraid of becoming attached to anyone. He is well on his way to the “unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable” heart that C.S. Lewis warns of in The Four Loves. Lewis writes that if we continuously refuse others into our lives because we’re afraid of pain or disappointment, our hearts will grow cold and eventually petrify.
When Rinoa and Squall speak on the evening of the concert at Balamb Garden, he tells her, “I don’t want friends who won’t be around tomorrow.” Squall walls people off because he’s afraid they’ll abandon him. He tells Ellone, a woman who transports his consciousness through time and relies on him to change the past, “Don’t… Don’t count on me.” His hard heart keeps him from seeing that she is the very sisterly figure he lost in childhood.
But perfect love casts out fear (John 4:18). The incarnation of Christ fights the lie I harbour in my heart alongside Squall—that I will be alone.
Does God leave me when it hurts most? After his wife died, C.S. Lewis wrestled with this question in A Grief Observed. He wondered if God cared. He felt like God slammed the door in his face when he was most desperate. In losing Ellone, Squall feels similarly abandoned and utterly alone. It is the pain of loss compounded by a look of indifference from the one who is supposed to make things right.
God invites us to use this space for lament and wonder. Jesus reminds me that he, too, was alone. His divine pain brings him to sit with me as the tears flow. He is not a detached onlooker, but one who also feels loss. And there I begin to find comfort. I may not know all the answers, but I do know the Creator cares.
The God who goes to the cross is not a God who slams the door (see Romans 8:32). God is there regardless of what my feelings are telling me, and God has taken the first step to meet me. This kind of love is at work in Rinoa, who takes the initiative to be vulnerable and to care about Squall despite his rebuffs. Over time, his heart of stone is transformed into a heart of flesh.
In the game, the party comes face-to-face with the possibility of being lost in time, and their lives are on the line. This is when Squall tells Rinoa that he will be there for her. This is what love does. It reminds us that we are not alone.
Despite a culture that prizes convenience and minimal obligations, love compels us to make these promises to each other—I will be there. I will love you. I will not abandon you. Our promises pour forth as acts of sacrifice, placing another’s need ahead of our own convenience.
This is precisely what God does for us. God’s promises are not based on austere obligation. Indeed, God makes promises out of love, and through that love, we are transformed. Just as Rinoa’s love transforms Squall, God’s love enables us to love.
In Joshua 1:1–9, the Israelites have lost Moses, and they are preparing to cross the Jordan River. Joshua assumes command, and he is faced with the enormous task of leading the people into a foreign land without his mentor. This is when God makes a promise. When life seems insurmountable and the future uncertain, God reminds Joshua that he is not alone. God’s words speak directly to Joshua’s apprehension (and my own). Do not be frightened. Do not be dismayed. God knows my heart. And God knows I need a guiding word and constant presence.
For Squall and company, the fantastical dimensions of time warps and space combat exacerbate the uncertainty they face. But Squall’s promise to Rinoa is an anchor in the storm. It says, regardless of what happens, this will stay true.
Similarly, God’s promises ground us. In binding myself to God and to others through community, I create a framework for my life that upholds me through trials. God’s promise of divine presence in the face of life’s pain and challenges are mirrored in the community of friends who become the body of Christ. When I stumble, I know they will be there.
Christ is the ultimate promise, the unchanging declaration of love, the Emmanuel, God with us. God’s promises have changed my life forever. When I’m tempted to hide my heartache like Squall, love invades my soul, and the relationship makes me a new creation. And if I ever find myself adrift, whether floating in space or on the Island Closest to Hell, those promises stand forever.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 19 We love[a] because he first loved us.” —1 John 4:18–19
1. Do you feel safe when you doubt and question, or like you’ve done something wrong? How does asking questions actually deepen a relationship with Christ and our understanding of his promises?
I used to feel uncomfortable doubting or questioning, as I didn’t want to think I knew more than the authority that gave me the information. I used to think that I was not wise or knowledgeable enough to think contrary to someone that had more experience than I did, but I’ve had to learn over the years the obvious truth, none of us know everything there is to know. I may be very skilled and experienced in an area, but that’s doesn’t mean I can’t learn from someone with less experience.
Asking questions helps pull back the weeds and branches that are in our way to understanding God more. When we question our doubts and bring those to other believers in Christ or search the bible for answers, we can find comfort in His promises whether we find the answer or not. I would say most of the questions we have were already answered, so we just have to look in His word to find the answer, even if the answer takes us to examine ourselves in ways we aren’t comfortable with.
2. Do you hold off from making promises to other people? Why or why not?
It depends on the situation. If I can’t keep my promise, I would prefer not to make a promise. I used to hesitate to say no, because I wanted to help the person or at least try to. Instead, I now tell them no if I know I won’t be able to or if it will complicate priorities I already have. If the person’s feelings are hurt or they don’t understand why I can’t promise them, I don’t control that.
I explain to the degree of detail I chose to give, especially if it’s private, that I cannot keep that promise right now. If it’s a close loved one though, like my immediate family, I will do my best to keep a promise to them more so than say, a co-worker or someone that isn’t as close to me.
3. When do you most doubt the promises of God? Is this doubt a manifestation of fear, like Squall’s? How might Squall’s journey to find community encourage you to build greater trust in God?
I believe like a lot of people, I most doubt God’s promises when my life goes a completely unexpected direction. When my plans don’t go how I expected them to, regardless of any foresight I had to prevent problems, life just happens and I have to deal with it and rely on Him. I don’t think it’s so much fear in my case, just an unexpected situation or path that life leads me instead of what I thought it would. For example, losing my grandmother sooner than I thought, having to find a new job when the position I had ended abruptly, my car breaking down and not turning on anymore in the middle of very busy downtown streets, and other difficulties that have happened in my life.
Squall’s journey resonated with me because I understand how important it is to have a community of friends, family, co-workers, church group or other group around. I have lost friends in different seasons of my life, some stayed for a little while, others for many years, but losing those relationships always hurt. I am the one that wants to keep the group together, make everyone happy and make sure we are getting along, but sometimes people just leave for various reasons and I can’t control that.
This made me understand Squall because he lost someone close to him and he harbored that pain inside of himself, until Rinoa and his friends helped him get through it. God has put people in my life, especially my wife, to help me get through that pain as well so I can understand what he’s going through.