Faith & Fandom
Arya Stark: Becoming No One
Arya Stark is easily one of the most lovable members of the Thrones family. From the moment we meet her to her last moments of season 6, she is vibrant and easily identifiable. She is also one of the characters that has suffered the most. She watched her father's life be taken. She was separated from her remaining family as almost all of them were killed or scattered across a world that was in complete upheaval over a silly little metal chair. She never let these things go, though. She kept a list of those whom she felt had wronged her and had every intention to stick them with the point end. Her ambitions to avenge her wrongdoers led her to the house of Black & White and her old shifty friend Jaqen H'ghar. Jaqen agrees to teach her of the "Faceless Men," and the discipline of becoming no one. He instructs her that she must learn to deny herself, which is something that Christians hear as well. Thankfully, we hear it from Jesus and not creepy killers that wear people's faces.
Jesus makes this statement in the 9th chapter of Luke where he writes, “Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it” (Luke 9:23-24).
Jesus tells us that we have to deny ourselves in order to follow Him. Jesus doesn’t tell us to deny ourselves so that we will become no one, but rather that we can become who we were created to be. With our sinful hearts, we end up being far from who we should be. Our sinful nature constantly pulls in the direction opposite of following Jesus. Denying ourselves isn't about losing who we are; it's about stepping away from the destructive parts of ourselves that get in the way. Jesus knew we can't follow Him and cling to our sinful nature at the same time.
Even though Arya was there to learn the way of the faceless man, her job looked a lot more like being the janitor in a creepy temple rather than learning the ways of a shape shifting assassin. Which, as you can expect, was a little frustrating for her.
Arya: "You said I could be your apprentice. You said you'd teach me how to be a Faceless Man." Jaqen H'ghar: "A man teaches a girl. "Valar Dohaeris." All men must serve. Faceless Men most of all.”
He told her that service is part of the concept of learning to be faceless. It’s all part of the art of blending, learning, humbling yourself.
Not only are Christians called to deny themselves, but also like the faceless, we are called to serve. Jesus puts this clearly in Matthew 20.
"But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:26-28)
In learning to humble and serve others, we not only see who Christ is, but we learn to see other's through his perspective. Regardless of your own status, humble yourselves for the sake of others. This perspective brings us closer to following Christ
Arya's trials don’t exactly go smoothly and even leave her blinded for a time. She is still committed to becoming “no one.” Even after her blindness and harsh discipline, she doesn’t give up. It's not an easy process. Waif, the annoying sister none of us ever wanted, shows up on a regular basis and challenges her in combat, constantly asking for her name. Jaqen also frequently tests her. He offers her things in return for abandoning her quest and admitting she is Arya Stark. Even after being offered food, shelter, even her sight back, Arya refuses them all by saying, "a girl has no name." She is determined to only move forward, and it is not going to be who she was before. Ephesians 4 strongly encourages people to see who they were before, but to realize that’s not who they are now in Christ.
"That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:20-24)
Paul instructs us to put off our old self and not go back and continue to be made new. An annoying girl with a bo staff probably isn't going to smack us around if we show hints of returning to our former ways, but it also won't help us in becoming who we are.
Waif and Jaqen continue to train Arya, and eventually move on to the art of deception. They encourage Arya to weave lies into her conversation and stories. They do this so that she can become convincing in the world of infiltration and easily attack or approach any target necessary. After regaining her sight and growing in deception, Jaqen tells her, "A girl is not ready to become no one. But she is ready to become someone else.” This is when she begins to be sent on missions where she can become "no one" as she infiltrates the culture and draw near to her targets. While there is no point where God calls us to be deceptive to people even for the best intentions, He does call us to be able to be able to “infiltrate” into people's lives. He calls us to do so not with deception, but in genuinely becoming things to people. Paul is one of the biggest instructors of this in 1 Corinthians 9.
"Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings" (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).
Sometimes the only way we will ever reach people is by becoming things to them, not deceiving them, but truly meeting them where they are.
The whole being "no one" thing doesn’t exactly work out for Arya though. She killed the people she wasn’t supposed to, and spared the people she was meant to kill. She wasn’t willing to let go of who she was. Even though she survived the House of Black and White and even conquered Waif in battle and earning her place, she walked away from it realizing that she already was who she needed to become.
As she stated, “A girl is Arya Stark of Winterfell, and I’m going home.”
Unlike Arya, we won't find completion in simply being ourselves, but we will find it in becoming who God has created us to be. This means denying ourselves and serving others. This means putting off the old man and becoming all things to all people. When we do this, we don't become "no one.” We become who Christ has called all believers to be.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)