This summer I am taking an online class in Theology and Film. It has been interesting to hear reactions from people who are disturbed by the fact that my homework consists of watching movies like Little Miss Sunshine and American Beauty in a seminary class. Maybe they expected us to discuss strictly Christian movies like Fireproof or War Room.
But it has actually been refreshing to have a theological discussion about secular films and to discover the resonance of Christ in the stories about human life. Because the truth is that no matter who is telling the story, every human life will echo the hunger and thirst for the eternal. God has put eternity into the hearts of all humans; all people were created with a longing for God.
I started the class while I was on my summer vacation in the Pacific Northwest. I was going to the theater in Redding, shipping books to Eugene, and watching movies in Washington. The first assignment was to watch a film currently in theaters. It was a rainy afternoon in Redding and the friend I was staying with had to go to a baby shower…so I thought, ‘what a perfect setting for a little date with myself’ and I went to see Finding Dory. Little did I know that everyone else in Redding had the same idea! Nevertheless, I sat by myself in the crowded theater and started snacking on the granola I snuck in my purse.
Finding Dory is the sequel to Finding Nemo and takes the original story deeper into the history and storyline of the forgetful but lovable character Dory. This film creates enough light-hearted, feel-good moments to engage and entertain the audience yet it also communicates a powerful message of belonging and family that our society is desperately hungry for.
Though we laugh at Dory’s forgetful naivety, there is a longing for the childlike hope and joy she possesses. Marlin and Nemo find themselves completely stuck and without any hope until Nemo suggests that they leave behind all the thought-wrenching analysis and ‘do what Dory would do’. There is a powerful discovery as they begin to access the same optimistic outlook that Dory carries through her life.
The most powerful and climactic moment of the film for me is when Dory remembers little by little about her childhood and starts putting the pieces together. As she is connecting the dots and finding her home, the screen pans out to show the persistent and unrelenting hope her parents had that she would find her way. You see her home and lines of seashells leading to the house from every direction. This scene spoke to me powerfully about God’s pursuit and his intention to create a path in every direction so that we can find our way back home.
In the same way as Dory’s parents, God is calling us home, waiting for us to remember and find his path for us to return to a place of belonging and family. And there is no direction that you are coming from that can miss God’s path for you. He has made a way for each and every one of his children. The movie also spoke to me about the diversity of family and that it does not end with our nuclear family but includes the brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles in Christ who walk alongside us through life. Family can be messy, broken, and hurtful at times but at the end of the movie, Dory realizes that Marlin and Nemo and even grumpy old Hank are her family too.
Humans were created for connection and belonging. This truth rings throughout scripture and throughout Hollywood. May you find the family, tribe, community and belonging that your soul craves and demands. God of the universe, Compassionate Lord, Perfect Love has made a place for you in the family; he is full of hope for your restoration and homecoming.