Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Just Keep Swimming

The Disney/Pixar movie Finding Nemo is the story of a fish named Marlin who is searching for his lost son, Nemo. Marlin's journey is desperate and fraught with peril, but he shares it with a friend he meets along the way named Dory. In a humorous reference to real-life fish, Dory is hindered by a very brief short-term memory. She has trouble remembering where she and Marlin are or what they're doing. She's frequently confused, but even in the face of danger, she remains upbeat. Marlin is often hopeless, but Dory is always ready to keep going. "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming," she sings to herself.

It's very easy to laugh at Dory, her mindless optimism, and her "Just keep swimming" mantra, but without Dory, Marlin would have failed in his quest to find his son. She spurred him on when he felt that everything was hopeless. She wouldn't quit, and she didn't let Marlin quit either. There were points in the movie when it seemed like they would never find Nemo, but that didn't stop Dory. You could dismiss Dory's buoyant spirit as the product of a limited mind, but I think to do so would be to miss an important lesson.

There are times in my life when I feel like Marlin. I am engaged in a task that seems hopeless, striving against an obstacle that feels too big for me. I am being sabotaged at every turn, pushed and prodded by forces that seem determined to break me. I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel or the way out of the valley. I'm just here, with no idea about how to get to a better place. I'm lost or stuck or defeated. Logic suggests my cause is hopeless. But even when all seems lost, I know I will do well to remember Dory and to "just keep swimming".

I remind myself that things often seemed hopeless to the apostles and the prophets. After all, several of them died violent deaths, so for some of them death itself was the only light at the end of the tunnel of their suffering. But that doesn't mean they should have given up. Their work was important even though it was difficult and painful, and their efforts were successful even though they were left unfinished. Sometimes we have tasks that are too big for us to finish alone, but that doesn't make our work meaningless. Sometimes we suffer with no end in sight, but we do have the promise of a happy ending—eventually we will be with God, and we even get glimpses of that joy in our relationship with Him here on Earth. Even now, in the valleys of our struggles, God is with us, sustaining us and offering us grace. No matter how miserable I feel, I know that my life is greater than my suffering, more beautiful than darkness, and worth more than I can appreciate at the time.

When my spirit is broken, I must remind myself that God's love and mercy are real and that joy exists somewhere in the midst of the darkness. When my heart suffers, I must remember that proof of God's love is all around me and that no hardship can tarnish His promises to me. When my mind is cynical and my faith falters, I must find the part deep inside of me that will never forget that God is real and that His love conquers all. God never promised me an easy ride. He didn't even promise that this world would be fair or that if I worked hard enough I would reap the virtues I have sown in this life. Sometimes people will hurt me, and sometimes I will get kicked down and trampled for things that aren't my fault at all. But that is no sign that God has abandoned me or that I should give up. It means that God is strengthening me, giving me whatever I need to persevere, even if it feels like I'm only squeaking by.

I may not be able to see the way out or to imagine the successful completion of the many challenges before me, but everything WILL be all right. As daunting as things may sometimes seem, all I really have to do is just keep swimming. In the end, God will take care of the rest.

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