Like many, my family eagerly anticipated this summer's release of Disney's Finding Dory and we weren't disappointed. It delivers a delightful package of humor, friendship and the enduring bonds of family.
Watching it with my teenagers brought back fond memories of our family's cross-country move to Boston over a decade ago. We drove with the soundtrack and dialogue of "Finding Nemo" repeatedly playing in the back seat of the car to peals of giggles from our then much younger children.
This worthy follow-up to that heartwarming story focuses on Dory and smartly brings the audience along on the underwater journey of the wide-eyed Tang fish with her companions, Nemo and Marlin, the clownfish from the original Finding Nemo.
Like Nemo, Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) has lost her parents and is on a quest to reunite with them. The only problem is she suffers from short-term memory loss which makes finding her way home a challenge. Despite Dory's repeated exclamations of, "Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot..." she remembers the most important things she needs to guide her on her journey: loving parents, caring friends and trust in goodness.
"There's always a way," she says. And despite all the odds, these are the elements that lead her safely on her journey.
Aren't they also what guide us on our life paths? They certainly have been for me. My quest to understand the nature of good turned me at an early age to the Bible, where I read countless examples of divine care that included God as the guiding force, the GPS that led people on often epic journeys to finding love and freedom.
Those journeys continue today each time we pray and follow God's direction. I've found that just knowing there's always a way out of what appears to be a dead-end situation is a powerful prayer. It's trusting that God's goodness is a present and active guide in our lives. Sometimes literally a guide when we are lost.
I'll never forget the blinding rainstorm I encountered one night on a dark New England road. I was a junior in college, driving to meet a friend at a specified time several hours away. Being from the west coast, I was totally unfamiliar with the area. Besides that, I had never been good with directions. The rain was coming down so hard that I couldn't see more than a few feet in front of my car. Feeling lost and panicked, I prayed and I felt very specifically directed to pull over to the side of the road, even though I could hardly see where I was going.
I found myself in the well-lit parking lot of a restaurant and inn - convenient, since I was also hungry! A bowl of hot clam chowder and a pay phone greeted me inside. I decided to make a quick call to the west coast for some encouraging support from a friend who had taught me how to make Biblical teachings practical as my Christian Science Sunday School teacher. His fatherly voice reassured me that this was just another opportunity to see how God guides and protects us and that God would lead me safely to my destination.
Like a Shepherd who doesn't let his sheep stray, God's word was "a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalms 119: 105). My experience that night was proof of the Bible promise that "If you wander off the road to the right or the left, you will hear his voice behind you saying, "Here is the road. Follow it" (Isaiah 30, Good News Translation).
And that is exactly what happened. The storm turned to a gentle rain and I navigated my way to the cafe where my friend was waiting for me. It was an hour later and the cafe had closed, but she stood on the street corner looking for me and we had a happy reunion.
Today, of course. cell phones and GPS devices provide excellent ways to communicate and navigate unfamiliar territory that weren't available then. Yet I still rely on the precise spiritual guidance that prayer provides.
Dory has a whole other way of finding her way around. She has help from a sonar-sensing Beluga whale for her right and left turns! But in the end her quest to find her parents comes down to her confidence in a good outcome. I think we can all trust in the direction God provides, and "know that Love will guide us, And safely lead us home" (Christian Science hymnal).