*Spoiler: If you have not seen Finding Dory, this devo may reveal more details than you desire to know.
I saw Finding Dory over the weekend. I left the theater with a strong conviction that there is a larger message embedded into a goofy movie about a blue fish with short-term memory loss–a message that is more prophetic than Disney and Pixar had planned.
When Dory was a baby fish, her parents helped her cope with short-term memory loss by creating a path of seashells that led to their home. If Dory forgot her way, she simply found the path. That’s how Dory found her childhood home when she traveled back to the aquarium tank where she was born. The seashell path that guided her home as a child was still there, but her parents were not. Dory continues to search for them, and through a series of events, she ends up in the ocean outside the aquarium. Lost and confused, Dory decides to investigate the ocean floor. She sees a rock, and then, she sees a shell, which reminds her of her parents. Then, she sees another shell and another, suddenly realizing that the shells have a purpose: to guide her home.
The scene widens, and we see that there is not just the one trail that Dory stumbled upon, but many trails. They extend from the home in all directions, much like rays from the sun that reach out innumerably toward the earth. In the theater, an impressive weight settles over the room as both the audience and Dory have the same revelation: Dory’s parents placed these for her. Dory is loved and always has been. They are still looking for her. Suddenly, Dory is not lost anymore.
In the distance, two narrow shadows approach, swimming side by side. As they near, we see that they are both carrying a fin-full of shells. Their mouths drop open a bit when they see Dory. Then, they drop their shells and race to their daughter.
It is not often that I cry during movies, but I cried during this scene. It’s a beautiful picture of a mother and father’s love for their daughter. Dory’s parents laid shells for years. They did not know if she was dead, if she would remember them, or if she could find her way home. But in hope, they continued to labor faithfully in love for years, and suddenly, the event they hoped, prayed, worked, and looked expectantly for happened. Their years of work and the countless shells they carried were not accomplished in vain; the very thing they taught Dory as a child brought her home to them as an adult.
There are so many insights and scripture at work in this scene that I can only list them briefly.
- Dory was trained as a child to know how to find her way home. She forgot for a time, but in the end, the knowledge returned to her (Proverbs 22:6).
- Dory did not live a wild life, but her story reminds me of the prodigal son who returned home and was accepted in perfect love (Luke 15:11-32).
- The things we accomplish in love are not in vain; they matter, and we will see the fruits of our labor in due time (Hebrews 6:10, Galatians 6:9).
- God sometimes works in a manner that I can only call “Suddenly!” Oswald Chambers tells us, “Do not look for God to come in a particular way, but do look for him. … We tend to overlook the element of surprise, yet God never works any other way. Suddenly, God meets your life, ‘…when it pleased God…’ (Galatians 1:15).”
Most importantly, Finding Dory reminds us of a great gift: God’s love for us. No matter how far we depart from his presence, there is a way to return. Similar to the paths of shells, the Lord makes a way that is unique for each of us that leads back to him. It is an endless labor of love. Day in and day out he waits for us to come into his presence, making a way for us to enter in. If we follow the path home, he is there. If we choose to ignore the path and go elsewhere, he is still there, laying a path of love that leads back to him.
Sometimes, we go astray in life and end up far from home, wondering, “How did I get here?” That’s what happened to Dory. Life happened, she got lost, and she did not know how to get home. The good news is that like Dory’s parents, the Lord has prepared a way home.