What’s your favorite Disney movie? When I was younger, it was The Little Mermaid. You would have known that simply by my goldfish: Sebastian, Eric, Flounder, Ariel, even Ursula. That, and the fact that I so desperately wanted to have red hair and tried combing my hair with a fork. Ironically, though, I couldn’t swim.
As I got older I learned to love Disney films so much more. Sure, I was sad when I watched The Lion King as a kid, but watching it back as an adult and seeing Simba trying to wake up his dead father: that’s tragic, sobbing in your popcorn sort of sad. And then there’s Beauty and the Beast. I’m not a greedy woman, but that library…
But what can beat Finding Nemo?! I love the absolutely realistic stressed single parent, the brave kid who thinks he’s invincible and finds out that yes, your parents are actually right most of the time, and then the adventure that turns out to be just what both parent and child needed to change and grow and deepen their bond. And then there’s Dory.
If I’m honest, some days I wish I had Dory’s magnificent short-term memory loss. There are somethings in your life you’d rather forget, aren’t there? Some moments or things you said or events that happened to you that it would be so much easier to simply forget entirely, have them disappear from your mind as if they never happened. But Dory’s memory loss is not why I love her. I love Dory because she has the best line of the movie, quite possibly of any movie ever:
Just keep swimming.
She can’t remember her friend’s name, gets herself into pickles with hungry sharks and stinging jellyfish and scary looking fish with portable lamps swinging from their heads, but Dory just keeps on swimming. It’s a simple mantra: Just keep swimming.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Confession time: I can’t swim. Well, as I usually say, if I was on a ship and it was going down, I’m pretty sure I could just about manage to keep myself afloat, but I’m not about to be swimming laps anytime soon. I went for lessons as a kid, the once-a-week-with-your-school-class kind of lessons, but I just never managed to get to grips with it. My mum can’t swim either – in fact, she’s near terrified of the water – so perhaps it’s genetic.
When I was learning, though, I remember the wonderful revelation that if you just simply let go, relax, and let the water lift you up, it will carry you. You see, your body wants to float. Of course, it took me a few nervous tries to truly believe that, and just before the moment when it might actually have happened, I fought it and ended up, arms and legs failing, water splashing over me and any nearby spectators. But eventually I let go, and it was wonderful. The feeling of floating on your back, the blue sky (or white ceiling!) above you, your body weightless on the water. Surrendering to the water’s secure hold is a feeling like no other. I still can’t swim with any real strength, but I love to float.
How many times do we get so close to surrendering to God’s secure arms, only to fight like a stubborn mule at the last minute? How close do we get to letting God carry us, only to fight him and cling to our own controlling ways, flailing in the end and splashing around, missing out on the wonderful feeling of being carried by a force more safe and strong than we will ever know?
I love the ocean. Though I grew up a city girl, living for a few years at the beach seemed to put the sea in my blood and now, every time I go back to the coast, it’s like coming home. But living at the coast I learned to never underestimate the power of the ocean. Sea-faring folk learn that lesson quickly, I think. It’s beautiful, but it’s powerful. If you’ve ever witnessed a tidal surge, or just the usual winter waves, you’ll know that the sea can do real damage: its waves can wash away sea walls, upset long-established wildlife, upturn boats and take lives. There are waves that are great for surfing, and then there are waves that only need you to stand back in respect, stand way way back.
Sometimes, life is like an ocean. Some waves hit, and boy do they make a good ride on that surfboard. They bring excitement and fulfillment and challenges that grow understanding and relationships and courage. They make you work, make you hold your breath and wait for the crash, but then they reward you with the most awesome view from the top, the spray in your face like a sweet drink in the desert.
Sometimes, the waves are bigger, scarier, too great for your surfboard. Sometimes, you just have to batten down the hatches, get those trusty sandbags out and wait for the storm to pass.
But either way, the waves are all just part of the journey, part of the ocean that is your wonderful and unique life. And in the wise words of Dory, you just gotta keep swimming – and ride those almighty waves of His grace.