Faith & Fandom
My Hero, Deku, & Lost Sheep
Updated: Apr 24
(This devotional runs through Manga #33 and Season 6 Episode 25)
My Hero Academia has taken a darker turn recently. In an anime/manga that’s been criticized for being too bright and cheerful at times (borderline Anime Ted Lasso), there’s been a jarring turn of darkness that is all the more contrasted by the story’s normally bright tone. As Deku has been increasingly in touch with all the sleeping powers within One For All, the evil manifesting from All For One and Shigaraki the world is finding itself in a painful oppression. As so many captured villains have been released, the world is under siege like Gotham City in the classic Batman storyline Knightfall. They took a page right from Bane’s playbook and it’s working. Deku starts to really descend into desperation as he once again faces Muscular. The original Muscular battle is one of the best and most intense moments of the series, so when he returned, I was genuinely excited, but the wear on Deku was quickly visible. As Muscular told Deku; “You trying to sympathize with me or something? Peddle that crap somewhere else!!! Cuz all you’ll find in my soul is blood and violence!!!” When his injuries force him to slow down for a moment, he tells All Might and his mom; “I’m not going back to UA. Shigaraki has the ability to locate me.... I don’t want anyone else to get hurt.”
“If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” - Ecclesiastes 4:10
Midorya isn’t just fighting external isolation, he’s also fighting internal division. He’s spiritual predecessors warring inside him, pushing him to kill his enemy rather than redeem him (strong Avatar the Last Airbender vibes). As one of his predecessors argues within his mind; “Now you tell us to devote our efforts to one who wants to ‘save” our mortal enemy? A boy holding on to such ridiculous delusion?” Even in Midorya’s own mind and spirit he doesn’t find true support or peace. When you can’t even find peace in yourself, that’s a different kind of isolation. Paul struggles with a similar state spiritually as he writes the Roman church.
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” - Romans 7:15-19
After a battle with Lady Nagant that leaves him further discouraged and weary, he stumbles into a message from All For One that is the nail in his emotional coffin. All For One left him a long villain speech, but it hit home.
“Those poor souls who stumble on the road of life are labeled villains....the path you’ve chosen is a thorny one. Every battle grinds away at your soul with no end in sight.”
Like Satan tempting Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew Chapter 4), All For One hit Deku with lies wrapped in truth. The difference is, with Deku the poisoning worked. Deku began to descend into a darker, hopeless place of isolation. As he cast off All Might, All Might chased him wanting him to know that; “I know how it is. You’re the only one who can bear this burden, and I know how crushing it is. Do your best. You deserve to rest. I need to tell you that,”
He went down such a dark and lonely path. Even Stain stated, “Looking at Him, you’d never guess he was a hero.” There have been so many times I've isolated myself in this fashion. Bitterness pushing me away from healthy relationships. Stress blinding me to what is and isn’t a healthy choice. Fear causing me to move in panic. Heart break causing me to build walls even I can’t penetrate. Leaving me in a disassociated state just pushing forward because I feel like I have no choice. I’ve felt that way creatively. I’ve felt that way ministerially. I’ve felt that way in marriage. I’ve felt that way as a parent. Like I have no one I can trust or lean on, so I just have to keep pushing alone. You truly lose yourself in that process. Summer of 2019 was one of those seasons for me. More platforms and opportunities than ever before, but I was also more isolated than I had ever been. There was a day I lost my temper on a Sunday morning with an ugly situation, it even got physical. I got kicked off my worship team at church by my leadership because I was too all over the place, and then spent a 7 hour drive to Alabama on board meeting phone calls dealing with toxic things that ate away at my soul, all before hopping out and speaking and leading worship at a Bible camp for a week. I was a wreck. Like Deku, the cheerful peaceful version of me was nearly unrecognizable.
Book 32 of the Manga has a page turn that literally left me in chills. Deku is on the verge of collapse. A fragment of himself, but he is pushing so, that as the panel says, they can all “Smile Together Again.” He was alone. He was falling apart. He was pushing himself to such an unhealthy place. Seeing Deku arrive at that place broke my heart. I think we may have all been at that place at different times in varying degrees. The wait between book 32 and book 33 was one of the longest chunks of time in my life. Knowing Deku was in such a rough place and having to wait 3 months to find out what happened next truly sucked, but that is a little more realistic for many of us. Our rough times usually aren’t solved in a single episode or page flip. Sometimes they take months or years to get through.
In one chapter of scripture alone (2 Samuel 11), David commits adultery, fraud, espionage, criminal conspiracy, and murder. He lost himself pretty quickly. But like Deku, David’s descent wasn’t an instant isolated situation. In 2 Samuel 10, David was responsible for the deaths of more than 40,000 men. “But they fled before Israel, and David killed seven hundred of their charioteers and forty thousand of their foot soldiers. He also struck down Shobak the commander of their army, and he died there.” - 2 Samuel 10:18. He had all that trauma in chapter 10, then chapter 11 begins with him isolating himself. “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.” - 2 Samuel 11:1. This led to all the other dramas previously mentioned. David had gone through something horrific, even for a mighty warrior, and chose to isolate. We aren’t better when we forcibly remove our own support systems.
“At that time, I continued my lonely fight. Trying to do what only I could do, trying to do everything by myself. I didn’t understand that if I turned around, there would be light.” - Deku
The beautiful thing about the way the story flowed is that when Deku isolated and sent himself on a path of destruction, he had people that loved him and were refusing to let him fall alone. As Class-A trapped Endeavor in the principal’s office, Bakugo states; “You don’t know the first thing about Deku. He’s screwed up in the head. The guy never takes himself into account. Just says crap like “I’m fine.” All Might became the symbol of peace with the same mindset. So, he won’t be the one to stop Deku.” Then as the class rep echoes; “We of Class-A intend to find him, follow him, and work alongside him. No matter how great a burden One For All may be... Midoriya is our friend. We can’t very well be expected to go smiling into the future... knowing that our friend is walking this thorny path alone." There will be times when we are completely lost in our own mess and may not make it out without people that are willing to come find us. Scripture has a firm push of this.
“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” - Galatians 6:1-2
“My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” - James 5:19-20
“Then Jesus told them this parable: Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” - Luke 15: 3-7
We need people in our lives that will leave the 99. We need people that will put us on their shoulders. We need people that will restore us gently. We need people that will turn us from the error of our path. As a pastor this is often considered by many people to mean “If I haven’t been to church in a while, I expect the pastor to call me and make me feel special. Then I'll come back.” That’s not leaving the 99, that’s manipulation stemming from deeper emotional and spiritual issues. Sometimes we can be on the wrong path, completely isolated, without ever leaving our groups. Sometimes we can be surrounded by people, but still in the place we aren’t letting anyone help.
As I read through the pages of Manga #33, I wept watching Class-A literally fight their friend to save him. It was so beautiful, but it was also a great battle. When a sheep is lost, we’re on the wrong path, or we’re bogged down in our own sins, fears, and insecurities, we rarely go down without a fight. We rarely just accept help, usually at that point we push back even harder. Which is exactly what Deku did.
Ochaco: We’re worried about you.
Deku: But... I’m fine. So don’t worry... and get away from me...
Bakugo: Wow, real inspirin! All hail the mighty inheritor of One For All! But tell us this... Are you Smilin’ now?
Shortly after a fight breaks out as Deku tries to flee, and it takes the entirety of Class-A to slow down the flight of their friend. They didn’t just pummel and entrap him, with each attempt they also poured encouragement and love on him. Because when we are lost in our struggles, we’ve deteriorated so much of what we see is good in ourselves, that we need to be emotionally and spiritually restored just as much as our actions and intentions.
“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” - Proverbs 16:14
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” - Romans 12:21
In the midst of the battle Todoroki can see how much Deku is struggling emotionally.
“What a look you have on your face... Is this responsibility.... so much for you that you can’t even let yourself cry? Seems like a burden... you should share with the rest of us.” - Todoroki
So often people won’t speak up when they are hurting or struggling. If we aren’t actually being attentive to the people in our lives, we could completely miss how much they are actually going through. Attentive compassion is heroism. Finally compassion from Bakugo, his harshest critic and rival, allows him to stop running.
“I’m sorry for everything. There’s nothing wrong with the path you’ve been walking down since inheriting one for all and following All Might’s lead. But now, you’re barely standing. And those ideals alone aint enough to get you over the wall you’re facing. We’re here to step in when you can’t handle everything on your own. Because to live up to those ideals and surpass All Might... We gotta save you, the civilians at UA, and the people on the streets, because saving people is how we win.” - Bakugo
Deku finally surrenders, allowing his friends to bring him home. But unlike the sheep in Jesus’ parable, there isn’t rejoicing. The people whine, complain, and protest the fact that Deku is returning because it might put them in danger. It’s a reminder to us as well that even though God is in the business of redemption and that we are given the ministry of reconciliation, not everyone will have the same heart. But not only do we need to fight to bring our lost friends home, we need to advocate for them when those with less understanding get in their way.
Ochaco rises to the top of the UA walls with a megaphone pleading for grace for Deku.
“Heroes are the only ones coated in that filth! So give him a moment’s rest to wash away the grime!! If you want me to stand up here and reassure you, I'm sorry! I can’t do that right now! That’s because we’re all gripped by the same fear and unease. We’re all neighbors here, including him. Please lend him your strength... so we have a shot at smiling together in the future. What he needs is your help! Please! Find it in your hearts to let him rest and recover... with us!!
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” - Proverbs 31:8-9
Sometimes our paths leave us emotionally destitute. Our actions leave us without a voice to share. And a kind voice shouting for us can make all the difference. As I finish this, Deku has returned to school and is in a place to begin again. Sometimes that’s all we could hope for or ask for. A chance to start fresh.
Let me leave you with a few thoughts.
If you are caught up in something, stop running.
If you see someone lost in their way, bring them home.
If you are fighting against people who love you, let them in.
If you see someone who is voiceless, speak up for them.
Feeling lost doesn't always mean you've gone the wrong direction. Sometimes it means you've gone the right direction alone.
The right place without the right people will still feel like the wrong place.
Isolation increases the weight of every burden and skews the visibility of every blessing.
We win by saving and save by winning.